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Jacob A.Riis 





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The belief that every man's experience ought to be 
worth something to the community from which he iji'ew it, 
no matter wliat that experience may be, so long as it was 
gleaned along the line of some decent, honest work, iriade 
me begin this book. With the result before liini, the 
reader can judge for himself now whether or not 1 was 
right. Eight or wrong, the many and exacting duties 
of a newspaper man's life would hardly have allowed me 
to bring it to an end but for frequent friendly lifts given 
ine by willing iiands. To the President of the Boai'd of 
Ileaith, Mr. Charles G. Wilson, and to Chief Inspector 
Byrnes of the Police Force I am indebted for much kind- 
ness. The patient friendship of Dr. Roger S.Tracy, the 
Registrar of Vital Statistics, has done for me wiiat I 
never could have done for myself ; for I know notiiing 
of tables, statistics and percentages, while there is nothing 
about them that he does not know. Most of all I owe in 
this, as in all things else, to the womanly sympathy and 
the loving companionship of my dear wife, ever my chief 
helper, my wisest counsellor, and ray gentlest critic. 

J. A. R. 

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Genesis o^ the Tenement, '7 

The Awakening, IS 

chapter iil 
The Miked Ckowd, 21 

The Doavn Town Back-alleys, 2B 

The Italian in New Yokk, 48 

The Bend, 55 

A Raid on the Stale-beer Dives, 71 



CHAPl'ER Vni. pjoE 

TnK Cheap Lodging-houses, 83 

Chinatown, 83 

Jewtown, 104 

chapter xi. 
The Swe\te!1s op Jewtown, I2II 


Thk Bohemians — Tenemest-hoi'se Cigakmaking, . . . IJtS 


Thb Color Lisk in New Tork, 14M 

chapter siv. 
Thb Common Herd 159 

chapter xv. 

The Pkobi^m of the Children, 179 

Waifs op the City's Slums, IS7 

The Street Arab, 196 

The REir.N of Rum, 210 




The Habvest op Takes, 217 

chapter xx. 
The Wokkimo Girls of Nrw Yokk 234 

chapter xxi. 

PAnrKRisM IN 'I'HK Tenements, ...... 24R 

chapter xxii. 
The Wkrcks and tiih; Waste 2515 

chapter xxiil 

The Man with the Kkifk, 263 

What Has Bjjen Done, ........ 268 

chapter xxv. 
How the Case Stands 283 




I CouKT Fnintispiece 

Hell's Kitchbk ahd SeBABioroi., 

Tehbmbnt op 1863, for Twelve Famtlies on Each Fl.i 
Tenement op tue Olb Style. Busth of thk A] 
At the Cradle op the Tbnembkt, — Doorway i 


An Old Eear-tenement in Roosevelt Streei', 

In the Home of an Italian Sao -picker, Jbhsev Streei 

The Bend 

Bandits' Roost, 

Bottle Alley, 

Lodgers in a Crowded Bayard Street Tenement— "F 
Cents a Spot," 

As All-night Two-cent Restaurant, in "Thr Bend," 


The Tiw.Mp, 79 

Busks in a Seven-cent Lodrinr- house, Pell Street, . 87 

In a Chinese Joint, 98 

"The OFriciAi, of Ciiinatowk," lUO 

A TuAMr'a Nest in Liulow Sthket, 106 

A Market Scbxe in the Jewish Quabteh Ill 

The Old Clo'e's Man— in the Jewish Quakteus, . . IIT 


Street Swe.vteii's Shop, 127 


A Black-ani)-tas Dive in "Africa," 157 

The Open Dooh, 160 

BiHu's-EVB View of an East Siiie Tenement Block, , . lya 

Thk White Bai»:e of Mobhnin'!, 106 

In Povektv (iAi-, Wi;sT Twijnty-ewhth Stkeet. An En.;- 


Ull^i'OSBEESED, 170 

The TiiENCH IN THE Potter's Field, 178 


"DionY Litb Nowhbbb," 800 



Street Arabs in StEEPiKc Quaktebs 2 

Gettino Ready for Supper in the Newsboys' Lodging- 
house, 3 

A Downtown "Mobgue," 2 

A GaoTVLBK Qahg in Session 2 


Hunting Rives Thieves, 2 

Sewing and Starving in an EIiI/abeth Street Attic, . 2 

A Flat in the Pauper Barracks, West Thirty-eighth 
Street, with all its Furniture, . . , . .3 

Coffee at One Cent, 3 

Evolution of the Tenement in Twenty Years, . . .2' 

GebbraIj Plan of the Riversibe Buildings (A. T. White's) 
IN Bbooki.yn, 2' 

Floob Plan op One Division in the Riverside Buildings, 
Showino Six "Apartments," 2: 


' ' With gates of silver and bars of gold 

Ye have fenced my sheep from their fathei's fold \ 

I have heai'd the dropping of their teni's 

In heaven, these eighteen hundred jears." 

" O Lord and Master, not oars the guilt, 
We bnild bat as our fathers built ; 
Behold thine images, how they stand, 
Sovereign and sole, through all our land." 

Thea Christ sought out an artisan, 
A low-browed, stunted, haggard man. 
And a motherless girl, whose fingers thin. 
Poshed from her faintly want and sin. 

These set he in the midst of them. 
And as they drew back their garment-hem, 
For fear of defilement, " Lo, here," said he, 
"The images ye have made of me! " 

— Jau£3 Ettssblii Lowbmi. 




Long ago it was said that " one half of the world does 
not know how the other half Uvea." That was true then. 
It did not know because it did not care. The half that 
was on top cared little for the struggles, and less for the 
fate of tiioae who were underneath, so long as it was able 
to hold them there and keep its own seat. There came a 
time when the discomfort and crowding below were eo 
great, and the consequent upheavals so violent, that it 
was no longer an easy thing to do, and then the upper 
half fell to inquiring what was the matter. Information 
on the subject has been accumulating rapidly since, and 
the whole world has had its hands full answering for its 
old ignorance. 

In New York, the youngest of the world's great cities, 
that time came later than elsewhere, because the crowding 
had not been so great. There were those who believed 
that it would never come; but their hopes were vain. 
Greed and recldess selfishness wrought like results here as 
in the cities of older lands. " When the great riot oc- 
curred in 1863," so reads the testimony of the Secretary 
of the Prison Association of New York before a legisla- 
tive committee appointed to investigate causes of the 



increase of crime in the State twenty-five years ago, 
"every hiding-place and nursery of crime discovered it- 
self by immediate and active participation in the opera- 
tions of the mob. Those very places and domiciles, and 
all that are like them, are to-day nurseries of crime, and 
of the vices and disorderly courses which lead to crime. 
By far the largest part — eighty per cent, at least- — of 
crimes against property and against the person are perpe- 
trated by individuals who have either lost connection with 
home life, or never had any, or whose homes had ceased 
to ie' sufficiently separate, decent, and desirable to afford 
what are regarded as ordinary wholesome influences of 
home and family. . . . The yonngcr criminals seem 
to come almost exclusively from the worst tenement house 
districts, that is, when traced back to the very places where 
they had their homes in the city here," Of one thing 
New York made sure at that early stage of the inquiry : 
the boundary line of the Other Half lies throngii the tene- 

It is ten years and over, now, since that line divided Xew 
York's population evenly. To-day three -fourths of its 
people live in the tenements, and the nineteenth eentnry 
drift of the population to the cities is sending ever-increas- 
ing multitudes to crowd them. The fifteen thousand ten- 
ant houses that were the despair of the sanitarian in the 
past generation have swelled into thirty-seven thousand, 
and more than twelve hundred thousand persons call theui 
home. The one way out he saw — rapid transit to the su!)- 
nrbs — has brought no relief. We know now that there is 
no way out ; that the" system " that was the evil offspring 
of public neglect and pnvate greed has come to sfay. a 
storm-ceutre forever of our civilization. Nothing is left 
but to make the best of a bad bargain. 

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What the tenements are and how they grew to what 
they are, we shall see hereafter. The story is dark 
enough, drawn from the plain public records, to send a 
ehill to any heart. If it shall appear that tlic sufferings 
and the sins of the " otlier half," and the evil they breed, 
are but as a just punishment upon the community that 
gave it no other choice, it will be because tliat is the truth. 
The boundary line lies there because, while the forces for 
good on one side vastly outweigh the bad — it were not 
well otherwise — in the tenements all the influences make 
for evil; because they are the hot-beds of the epidemics 
that carry death to rich and poor alike; the nurseries 
of pauperism and crime that fill our jails and police courts ; 
that throw off a scum of foi'ty thousand human wrecks to 
the island asylnms and workhouses year by year ; that 
turned out in the last eight years a round half million beg- 
gars to prey upon our charities ; that maintain a standing 
army of ten thousand tramps with all that that im- 
plies ; because, above all, they touch the family life witli 
deadly moral contagion. TJiis is their worst crime, in- 
separable from the system. That we have to own it the 
child of our own wrong does not excuse it, even though 
it gives it claim upon our utmost patience and tenderest 

What are you going to do about it ? is the question of 
to-day. It was asked once of our city in taunting defiance 
by a band of political cutthroats, the legitimate outgrowth 
of life on the tenement-house level.* Law and order 
found the answer then and prevailed. With our enor- 
mously swelling popiilation held in this galling bondage, 
will that answer always be given ? It will depend on how 
fully the situation that prompted the challenge is grasped. 
* The Tweed bimcl of manioipal robbers. 



Forty per cent, of the distress among the poor, said a re- 
cent official report, is due to drunkenness. But the first 
legislative committee ever appointed to probe this sore 
went deeper down and uncovered its roots. The "con- 
clusion forced itself upon it thatcei'tain conditions and as- 
sociations of hnman life and habitation are the prolific 
parents of corresponding liabits and morals," and it I'ec- 
oinniended " the prevention of drnnkenness by providing 
for every man a clean and comfortable home,"' Years 
after, a sanitary inquiry brought to light tlie fact that 
"more than one-half of the tenements with two-thirds 
of their population were held by owners who made the 
keeping of them a bnsiness, generally a speculation. The 
owner was seeking a certain percentage on his outlay, and 
tiiat percentage verj- rarely fell below fifteen per cent., 
and frequently exceeded thirty.* . . . Thocomplaiut 
was universal among the tenants that they were entirely 
nncared for, and tliat the only answer to their requests to 
have the place put in order by repaii's and necessary im- 
provements was that they must pay their rent or leave. 
The agent's instructions were simple but eniphatic: 'Col- 
lect the rent in advance, or, failing, eject the occupants.'" 
Upon such a stock grew this upas-tree. Small wonder the 
fruit is bitter. The remedy that shall he an effective an- 
swer to the coming appeal for justice must proceed from 
the public conscience- Iv either legislation nor charity can 
cover the ground. The greed of capital that wrought the 
evil must itself undo it, as far as it can now be undone. 
Homes must be built for the working masses by those 
who employ their labor ; but tenements must cease to be 

* Forty p";r cent, waa declared \iy witnesses before a Senate Com- 
mittee to lie a fair average inferept on tenement property. Instances 



"good property" in tlie old, heartless sense. " Pliilan- 
thropy and five per cent." is tlie penance exacted. 

If tliis is ti-ne from a purely economic point of view, 
wliat tlien of the ontlook from the Christian standpoint! 
Not long ago a great meeting was held in this city, of all 
denominations of religious faith, to discuss the question 
how to lay hold of these teeming masses in the tenements 
with Christian inHuences, to which they are now too often 
strangers. Might not the conference have found in the 
warning of one Brooklyn builder, who has invested his 
capital on this plan and made it pay more than a money 
interest, a hint worth heeding : " How shall the love of 
God be understood hy those who have been nurtured in 
sight only of the greed of man ? " 

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THE first tenement New York knew bore the mark of 
Cain from its birtli, thougli a genei-ation passed 
before tlie writing waa deciphered. It was the "rear 
iionse," infamous ever after in our citj'e history, Tiiere 
had been tenant-houses before, but they were not built 
for tlie purpose. Nothing would probably liave shocked 
their original owners more than the idea of their hai'bor- 
ing a promiscuous crowd ; for they were the decorous 
homes of the old Knickerbockers, the proud aristocracy 
of Manhattan in the early days. 

It was the stir and bustle of trade, together with the 
tremendoiis immigi'ation that followed upon the war of 
1812 that dislodged them. In thirty-iive years the city 
of less than a huMdred thousand came to harbor half a 
million souls, for whom homes had to be found. "Within 
the memory of men not yet in their prime, Washington 
had moved from Iiis house on Cherry Hill as too far out 
of town to 'be easily reached. Now the old residents fol- 
lowed hia example ; but they moved in a different direction 
and for a different reason. Their comfortable dwellings 
in the once fashionable streets along the East Eiver front 
fell into the liands of real-estate agents and boarding- 
house keepers ; and here, says the report to the Legislature 
of 1857, when the evils engendered had excited just alarm, 
" in its beginning, the tenant-house became a real blessing 

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to that class of industrious poor whoge small earnings lim- 
ited their expenses, and whose employment in workshops, 
stores, or about the warehouses and thoroughfares, render 
a near residence of much importance." Not for long, 
however. As business increased, and the city grew with 
rapid strides, the necessities of the poor became the op- 
portunity of their wealtliier neighbors, and the stamp was 
set upon the old houses, suddenly become valuable, wliich 
the best thought and effort of a later age have vaioly 
struggled to efface. Their " large rooms were partitioned 
into several smaller ones, without regard to liglit or ventila- 
tion, tlie rate of rent being lower in proportion to space 
or height from the street ; and tliey soon became lilled 
from cellar to garret with a class of tenantry living from 
hand to mouth, loose in morals, improvident in liabits, 
degraded, and squalid as beggary itself." It was thus the 
dark bedroom, prolific of untold depravities, came into 
the world. It was destined to survive the old houses. 
In their new role, says t\ie old I'eport, eloquent in its in- 
dignant denunciation of " evils more destnictive than 
wars," " they were not intended to last. Rents were 
fixed higli enough to cover damage and abuse from tliis 
class, from whom nothing was expected, and the most was 
made of them while they lasted. Neatness, order, clean- 
liness, were never dreamed of in connection with the ten- 
ant-house system, as it spread its localities from year to 
year; while reckless slovenliness, discontent, piivation, 
and ignorance were left to work out tlieir invariable re- 
suits, until tlie entire premises reached the level of ten- 
ant-house dilapidation, containing, but sheltering not, 
the miserable hordes that crowded beneath mouldering, 
water-rotted roofs or burrowed among the rats of clammy 
cellars." Yet so illogical is human greed that, at a later 


day, when called to account, " the proprietors frequently 
urged the filthy habits of the tenants aa an excuse for tlie 
condition of their property, utterly losing sight of the 
fact that it was the tolerance of those habits which was 
the real evii, and that for this they themselves were alone 

Still the pressure of the crowds did not abate, and in 
the old garden where the stolid Dutch burgher grew his 
tulips or early cabbages a rear house was built, generally 
of wood, two stories high at first. Presently it was carried 
up another story, and another. "Where two families had 
lived ten moved in. The front house followed suit, if 
the brick walls were strong enough. The question was 
not always asked, judging from complaints made by a con- 
temporary witness, that the old buildings were " often 
carried up to a great height without regard to the strength 
of the foundation walls." It was rent the owner was af- 
ter ; nothing was said in the contract about either the 
safety or the comfort of the tenants. The gai'den gate no 
longer swung on its rusty hinges. The shell-paved walk 
had become an alley ; what the rear house had left of the 
garden, a " court." Plenty such are yet to be found in 
the Fourth Ward, with here and there one of the original 
rear tenements. 

Worse was to follow. It was " soon perceived by estate 
owners and agents of property that a greater percentage 
of profits could be realized by the conversion of houses 
and blocks into barracks, and dividing their space into 
smaller proportions capable of containing human life 
within four walls. . . . Blocks were rented of real es- 
tate owners, or * purchased on time,' or taken in charge at 
a percentage, and held for under-letting." With the ap- 
pearance of the middleman, wholly irresponsible, and ut- 

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terly reckless and unrestrained, began the era of tenement 
building which turned out such blocks as Gotham Court, 
where, in one cholera epidemic that scarcely touched the 
clean wards, the tenants died at tiie rate of one hundred 
and ninety-five to the thousand of population ; ivhicli 
forced tho general mortality of the city up from 1 in. 
41.S3 in 1S15, to 1 in 27.33 in 18.)5, a year of unusual 
f feedom from epidemic disease, and which wrung from 
the early oi'ganizers of the Health Department this wail : 
" There are numerous examples of tenement-houses in 
which are lodged several hundred people that Lave a jii'it 
rata allotment of ground area scarcely equal to two sqiuii'e 
yards upon the city lot, court -yards and ali inchided." 
The tenement-house population had swelled to half a mill- 
ion souis by that time, and on the East Side, in what i^ still 
the most densely populated district in all the world, China 
not excluded, it was packed at tho rate of 2yO,0(X) to the 
square mile, a state of affairs wholly unexampled. The ut- 
most cupidity of other lands and other days had never con- 
trived to herd much more tluin half that number within tho 
same space. Tho greatest crowding of Old London was at 
the rate of 175,810. Swine roamed the streets and gutters 
as their principal scavengers.* The death of a child in a 
tenement was [■cgistei-ed at the Bureau of Vital Statistics 
as "plainly due to suffocation in the fouiair of an im venti- 
lated apartment," and the Senators, who had come down 
fi-om Albany to find out what was the matter with ^ew 
York, reported that "there are amnially cut off from the 
population by disease and death enough human beings 
to people a city, and enough human labor to sustain it." 

* It was not until tlie winter of 1807 tliat owners of swine were pro- 
liibited by ordinance from letting tlieni rnu at large in tlie Ijuilt-up 



And yet experts had testified that, as compared with up- 
town, rents were from twenty-five to thirty per cent, 
higher in the worst shims of tlie lower wards, with such 
accommodations as were enjoj^ed, for instance, by a " fam- 
ily with boarders" in Cedar Street, who fed hogs in the 
cellar that contained eight or ten loads of manure; or 
"one room 13 x 12 with five families living in it, com- 
prising twenty persona of botli sexes and all ages, witli 
only two beds, without partition, screen, chair, or tabic," 
The rate of rent has been successfully maintained to the 
piesent day, though the hog at least has been eliminated. 

Lest anybody flatter himself with the notion t!iat these 
were evils of a day that is happily past and may safely be 
forgotten, let me mention here three very recent instances 
of tenement-house life that came under my notice. One 
was the burning of a rear house in Mott Street, from ap- 
pearances one of the original tenant-houses tliat made 
their owners I'ich, The fire made lionieless ten families, 
who had paid an average of $5 a month for their mean 
little cubby-holes, Tlie owner himself told me that it was 
fully insured for $800, though it brought him in $600 a 
year rent. He evidently considered himself especially 
entitled to be pitied for losing such valuable property. 
Another was the case of a hard-working family of man 
and wife, young people from the old countiy, who took 
poison together in a Crosby Street tenement because they 
were "tired." There was no other explanation, and none 
was needed when I stood in the room in which they had 
lived. It was in the attic with sloping ceiling and a sin- 
gle window so far out on the roof that it seemed not to 
belong to the place at all. With scarcely room enough to 
turn around in they had been compelled to pay five dollars 
and a half a month in advance. There were four such 

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rooms in tliat attic, and together they brought in as mucli 
as many a handsome little cottage in a pleasant part of 
Brooklyn. The third in- 
stance was that of a colored 
family of husband, wifo, 
and baby in a wretehed 
rearrookery in West Thii-tl 
Street. Their rent was 
eight dollars and a half 
for a single room on the 
top-stoiy, so small that I 
was nnable to get a plioto- 
grapli of it even by plac- 
ing the camera outside tJie 
open door. Three short 
steps across either way 
would have measured its 
full extent. 

There was just one ex- 
cuse for the early tene- 
ment-house builders, and 
their successors may plead 
it with nearly as good 
right for what it is worth. 
"Snch," says an official re- 
port, " is the lack of house- 
room in the city tJiat any 
kind of tenement can be 
lodgers, if there is space 
ing in cellars. There were 

immediately crowded with 
offered." Thousands were li 

* Tills " uiiTentilated and fever-breeding structure " the 
was built was picked out by the Council of Hygiene, then 
'A, and prusented to the Citizens' Association of New York 



three hundred underground lodging-houses in the city 
when the Health Department was organized. Some fif- 
teen years before that the old Baptist Church in Mul- 
berry Street, just off Chatham Street, had been sold, and 
the rear half of the frame structure had been converted 
into tenements that with their swarming population be- 
came the scandal even of that I'eekless age. The wretch- 
ed pile harbored no less than forty faniiHes, and the 
annual I'ate of deaths to the population was officially 
stated to be 75 in 1,000. These tenements were an e\- 
treuie type of very many, for the .big barracks had by 
this time spread east and west and fai- up the island into 
tlie sparselj' settled wards. Whetlier or not tlie title was 
clear to the land upon which they were built was of 
less account than that the rents were collected. If there 
were damages to pay, the tenant had to foot them. Casea 
were "very frequent when property was in litigation, and 
two or tliree different parties were collecting i-ents." Of 
course under such circumstances " no repairs were ever 

The climax had been reached. The situation was summed 
up by the Society for the Improvement of the Condition of 
the Poor in these words : " Crazy old buildings, crowded 
rear tenements in filthy yards, dark, damp basements, leak- 
ing garrets, shops, outhouses, and stables * converted into 
dwellings, though scarcely fit to shelter brutes, are habi- 

men "multiple domicile" in a desirable street, with tlie following 
comment : " Here are twelve living-rooma and twentj-one bedrooms, 
and onlj six of the latter liave any provision or possibility for the ad- 
mission of light and air, excepting throagh the family sitting- and liv- 
ing-room ; being utterly dark, olose, and nnventilated. The living- 
rooms are but 10 X 13 feet; the hedrooma SJ x 7 feet" 

• " A lot 50 >i 60, contained twenty stables, rented for dwollinga at 
$15 a year each ; cost of the whole |600." 

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tationa of thousands o£ our fellow-beings in this wealthy, 
Christian city," " The city," says its historian, Mrs. Mar- 
tha Lamb, commenting on the era of aqueduct building 
between 1835 and 1845, "was a general asylnm for va- 
grants." Young vagabonds, the natural offspi-ing of such 
"home" conditions, overran the streets. Juvenile crime 
increased fearfully year by year. The Children's Aid 
Society and kindred philanthropic organizations were yet 
unborn, but in the city directory was to be found the ad- 
dress of the " American Society for the Promotion of Ed- 
ucation in Africa," 

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THE dread of advancing eiiolera, with the guilty knowl- 
edge of the harvest field that awaited the plague in 
New York's slums, pricked the conscience of the eoinnni- 
nitj into action soon after the close of the war. A citizens' 
movement resulted in the organization of a Boai-d of 
Health and the adoption of the '■ Tenement- House Act " 
of 18fl7, the first step toward remedial legislation. A thor- 
ough canvass of tiie tenements had been begun already in 
the previous year ; bnt the cholera first, and next a scourge 
of small-pox, delayed tlie work, while emphasizing the 
need of it, so that it was 1869 before it got fairly under 
way and began to tell. The dark bedroom fell under the 
ban first. In that year the Board ordered the cutting of 
more than forty-six thousand windows in interior rooms, 
chiefly for ventilation^for little or no light was to be had 
from the dark hallways. Air-shafts were unknown. The 
saw had a job all that summer ; by early fall nearly all 
the orders had been carried out. Not witliout opposition ; 
obstacles were thrown in the way of tlie officials on the 
one side by the owners of the tenements, who saw in 
every order to repair or clean up only an item of added 
expense to diminish their income from the rent; on the 
other side by the tenants themselves, who had sunk, after 
a generation of unavailing protest, to the level of then- 
siirroimdines, and were at last content to remain there. 

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Tlie tenemeiitB had bred their ]!seniesis, a proletariat ready 
aiad able to avenge the wrongs of their crowds. Already 
it taxed the city heavily for the support of its jaile and 
charities. The basis of opposition, curiously enough, was 
the same at both extremes ; owner and tenant alike con- 
sidered official interference an infringement of personal 
rights, and a hardship. It took long jeai-a of weary labor 
to make good the claim of the sunlight to such comers of 
tlie dens as it could reach at all. Not until five years 
after did the department succeed at last in ousting tlie 
"cave-dwellers" and closing some five hundred and fifty 
cellars south of Houston Street, many of them below 
tide-water, that had been used as living apartments. In 
many instances the police had to drag the tenants out by 

The work went on ; but the need of it only grew with 
the effort. The Sanitarians were following up an evil that 
grew faster than they went ; like a fire, it could only be 
headed off, not chased, with success. Official reports, 
read in the churches in 1879, characterized the younger 
criminals as victims of low social conditions of life and 
unhealthy, overcrowded lodgings, brought up in " an at- 
mosphere ('f actual darkness, moral and physical." This 
after the saw had been busy in the dark corners ten yeai-e ! 
" If we conld see the air breathed by these poor ci-eatnres 
in their tenements," said a well-known physician, "it 
would show itself to be fouler than the mud of the gut- 
ters." Little improvement was apparent despite all that 
had been done. "The new tenements, that have been re- 
cently built, have been usually as badly planned as the 
old, with dark and unhealthy i-ooms, often o^'er wet cel- 
lars, where extreme overcrowding is permitted," was the 
verdict of one authority. These are the houses that to- 

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day perpetuate tlie worst traditions of the past, and they 
are counted by thousands. The Five Points had been 
cleansed, as far as tlie immediate neighborhood was con- 
cerned, but tlie Mulberry Street Bend was fast outdoing 
it in foulness not a stone's throw away, and now centres 
of corruption were continually springing up and getting 
the upper hand whenever vigilance was relaxed for ever 
so short a time. It is one of the curses of the tenement- 
honse system that the woi'st houses exei'cise a levelling in- 
fluence upon all the rest, just as one bad boy in a school- 
room will spoil the whole class. It is one of the ways 
the evil that was " the result of forgetfulness of the 
poor," as tlie Council of Ilygiene mildly put it, has of 
avenging itself. 

The determined effort to head it off by laying a strong 
hand upon the tenement builders that has been the ciiief 
business of the Health Board of recent years, dates from 
this period. The era of the air-shaft has not solved the 
problem of housing the poor, but it has made good use of 
limited opportunities. Over the new houses sanitary law 
exercises full controh But the old remain. They cannot 
be summarily torn down, tiiough in extreme cases the 
authorities can order them cleared. Tiie outrageous over- 
ci'owding, too, remains. It is characteristic of the tene- 
ments. Poverty, their badge and typical condition, in- 
vites — compels it. All efforts to abate it result only in 
temporary relief. As long as they exist it will exist with 
them. And tlie tenements will exist in Kew York for- 

To-day, what is a tenement ? The law defines it as a 
house "occupied by three or more families, living inde- 
pendently and doing their cooking on the premises ; or by 
more than two families on a floor, so living and cooking 

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riiE tniiKii 1 

and having a oyiiinioii riglit iti the halls, stairways, yards, 
etc." That is the Iftgal meaning, and inchides flats and 
apartiiieut-hoiises, with wliich we have nothing to do. In 
its narrower sense the typical tene- 
ment was thus deserihed when last 
arraigned before the bar of public 
justice : " It U generally a brich 
bnilding from four to six storits 
high on the street, fi'equently witli 
a store on the first floor wliich, 
\Fhen used for the sale of liquor, has 
a side opening for 
the benefit of the 
inmates and to 
evade the Sun- 
day law; fonr 
families occupy 
each floor, and a 
set of rooms con- 
sists of one or two 
dark closets, used 
as bedrooms, with 
a living room 
twelve feet by 
ten. Tlie stair- 
case is too often 


centre of the 
honse, and no direct through ventilation is possible, each 
family being separated from the othei' by partitions. Fre- 
quently the rear of the lot is ocenpied byanother bnilding 
of three stories liigh with two families on a floor." The 
picture is nearly as true to-day as ten years ago, and will be 

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tor a long time to come. Tlie dim light admitted by the 
air-sliaft sliines upon greater crowds than ever. Tene- 
ments are still "good property," and the poverty of the 
poor man his destruction. A barrack down town where he 
has to live because lie is poor brings in a tiiird more rent 
than a decent flat house in Harlem. The 6tatement once 
made a sensation that between seventy and eighty children 
had been found in one tenement. It no longer excites 
even passing attention, when the sanitary police report 
counting 101 adults and 91 children in a Crosby Street 
liouse, one of twins, built togetlier. The children in 
the other, if I am not mistaken, numbered 89, a total 
of 180 for two tenements ! Or when a midnight inspec- 
tion in Mulbei-ry Street unearths a Jiundred and fifty 
"lodgers" sleeping on filthy floors in two baildings. 
Spite of brown-stone trimmings, plate-glasa and mosaic 
vestibule flooi-s, the water does not rise in summer to the 
second story, while the beer flows unchecked to the all- 
night picnics on the roof. The saloon with the eide-door 
and tlie landlord divide the prosperity of the place be- 
tween them, and the tenant, in sullen submission, foots 
the bills. 

Where are the tenements of to-day ? Say rather : 
where are they not ? In fifty years they have crept np 
from the I'ourth Ward slums and the Five Points the 
whole length of the island, and have polluted the Annexed 
District to the Westchester line. Crowding all the lower 
wards, wherever business leaves a foot of ground un- 
claimed; strung along both rivers, like ball and chain 
tied to the foot of every street, and lilling up Harlem 
with their restless, pent-up jnultitudes, they hold within 
their clutch the wealth and business of New York, hold 
them at their mercy in the day of mob-rule and wrath. 


3(1 now THJ.: otiiki: half lives. 

Tlie biiHet-proof abutters, tlie stacks of iiand-grenades, 
and tlie Oatling guns o£ the Sub-Treasury are tacit admis- 
sions of tbe fact and of tbe quality of the mercy expected. 
Tlie teueineuts to-day are Xew York, harboring three- 
fourths of its population. When another generation shall 
have doubled the census of our city, and to that vast army 
of workers, held captive by poverty, the very name of home 
shall be as a bitter mockery, what will the harvest be ? 

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WHEN once I asked tlie agent of a notorious Fourth 
Ward a.]\ey liow many people might be living in it 
I was told : One hundred and forty families, one hnndred 
Irish, thirty-eight Italian, and two that spoke the German 
tongue. Barring the agent herself, there was not a iiative- 
horn individual in the court. The answer was characteris- 
tic of the cosmopolitan character of lower New York, very 
nearly so of the whole of it, wherever it runs to alleys and 
eoniis. One may find for the asking an Italian, a German, 
a French, African, Spanish, Bohemian, linssian, Scandina- 
vian, Jewish, and Chinese colony. Even the Arab, who 
peddles " holy earth " from the Battery as a direct importa- 
tion from Jerusalem, Las his exclusive preserves at the 
lower end of Washington Street. The one thing you shall 
vainly ask for in the chief city of America is a distinctive- 
ly American community. There is none ; certainly not 
among the tenements. Where have they gone to, the old 
inhabitants? I put the question to one who might fairly 
be presumed to be of the number, since I had found him 
sighing for the " good old days " when the legend " no 
Irish need apply " was familiar in the advertising columns 
of tlie newspapei-s. He looked at me with a puzzled air, 
" I don't know," he said. " I wish I did. Some went to 
California in '49, some to the war and never came back. 

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Tlie rest, I txpect, lutvc gone to heaven, or somewliere. 
I don't see theiii 'round Ijere." 

Whatever the merit of the good man's conjectures, his 
eyes did not deceive him. They are not here. In their 
]>lace has come this qneer conglomerate mass of heterogene- 
ous elements, ever striving and working like whiskey and 
water in one glass, and with tlie like result: final union 
and a prevaihng taint of whiskey. The once unwelcome 
Irishman has been followed in his turn by the Italian, the 
Kussian Jew, and tiie Cliinaman, and has himself taken a 
hand at opposition, quite as bitter and quite as ineffectual, 
against these later hordes. AVhcrever these have gone 
they have crowded him ont, possessing the block, the 
street, the ward with their denser swarms. But the Irish- 
man's revenge is complete. Victorious iu defeat over his 
recent as over his more ancient foe, the one who opposed 
his coming no less than the one who drove him out, he 
dictates to both their politics, and, secure in possession of 
the offices, returns tlie native his greeting with interest, 
while collecting the rents of the Italian whose house he 
has bought with tlie profits of his saloon. As a landlord 
he is picturesquely autocratic. An amusing instance of his 
methods came under my notice wliilo writing these lines. 
An inspector of the Health Department found an Italian 
family paying a man with a Celtic name twenty-iive 
dollars a month for three small rooms in a ramsliackle 
rear tenement — more than twice what they were worth 
— and expressed his astonishment to the tenant, an ig- 
norant Siciiian laborer. He replied that he had once 
asked the landlord to rednee the rent, but he would not 
do it. 

" AVell ! What did he say ? " asked the inspector. 

" ' Damma, man ! ' lie said ; ' if you speaka thata way to 

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me, I fira you and your things in the streets.' " And the 
frightened Italian paid the rent. 

In justice to the Irish landlord it must be said that like 
an apt pupil he was merely showing forth the result of 
the schooling he had received, re-enacting, in his own way, 
the scheme of the tenements. It ia only his frankness that 
shocks. The Irishman does not naturally take kindly to 
tenement life, though with characteristic versatility he 
adapts himself to its conditions at once. It does viol- 
ence, nevertheless, to the best that is in him, and for 
that very reason of all who come within its sphere soonest 
cori'upts him. The result is a sediment, the product of 
more than a generation in the city's slums, that, as distin- 
guished from the larger body of his class, justly I'anks at 
the foot of tenement dwellers, the so-called " low Irisli," 

It is not to be assumed, of conrse, that the whole body 
of the population living in the tenements, of which New 
Yorkers are in the habit of speaking vaguely as "the 
poor," or even the larger part of it, is to be classed as 
vicious or as poor in the sense o£ verging on beggary. 

New York's wage-earners have no other place to live, 
more is the pity. They are truly poor for having no better 
homes ; waxing poorer in purse as the exorbitant rents to 
which they are tied, as ever was serf to soil, keep rising. 
The wonder is that they are not all corrupted, and speedily, 
by their surroundings. If, on the contrary, there be a 
steady woi'king up, if not out of tlie slough, the fact is a 
powerful argument for the optimist's belief that the 
world is, after all, growing better, not worse, and would go 
far toward disarming apprehension, were it not for the 
steadier growth of the sediment of the slums and its con- 
stant menace. Such an impulse toward better things there 
certainly is. The Glerman rag-picker of thirty years ago. 

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quite as low in the scale as hie Italian successor, is the 
thrifty tradesman or prospei'ous fanner of to-day.* 

TJie Italian scavenger of our time is fast graduating 
into exclusive control of tlie corner fruit- stands, while his 
black-eyed hoy monopolizes the hoot-blacking industry in 
which a few years ago he was an intruder. The Irish 
liod-carrier in the second generation has become a brick- 
layer, if not the Alderman of his ward, while the Chinese 
coolie is in almost eschisive possession of the laundry bus- 
iness. The reason is obvious. Tlie poorest immigrant 
comes hero with tlie purpose and ambition to better him- 
self and, given Iialf a chance, might be reasonably expected 
to make the most of it. To tlie false plea that he prefers 
the squalid homes in which his kind are housed there 
could bo no better answer. The truth is, his half chance 
has too long been wanting, and for the bad result he has 
been mijustly blamed. 

As emigration from east to west follows the latitude, 
so does the foreign influx in New York distribute itself 
along certain well-defined lines that waver and break only 
under the stronger pressure of a more gregarious I'ace or 
the eucroacliments of inexorable hnsiness. A feeling of 
dependence upon mutual effort, natural to strangers in 
a strange land, nnaapiainted with its language and cus- 
toms, sufficiently accounts for tliie. 

The Irishman is the true cosmopolitan immigrant. All- 
pervading, he shares his lodging with perfect impartiality 
with the Italian, the Greek, and the " Dutchman," yielding 

" The Sheriff Street Colony of rag-piekers, loug since gone, ia an in- 
stance in point. Tlie thrifty Germans saved np money during years of 
hard work in squalor and apparently wretched poverty to buy a town- 
ship in a Western State, and the whole colony moved out there in a 
body. There need be no donbt about their thriving there. 

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only to sheer force of uumbei's, and objects equally to 
tlieni all. A map of tlie city, colored to designate nation- 
alities, woidd sliow more stripes than on tlie skin of a ze- 
bra, and more colors than any rainbow. The city on such 
a map would fall into two great Iialvee, gi'een for the Irish 
prevailing in the West Side tenement districts, and blue 
for the Germans on the East Side. But intermingled with 
these ground colors would be an odd variety of tints that 
would give the whole the appearance of an extraordinary 
crazy-quilt. From down in the Sixth Ward, upon the site 
of tlie old Collect Pond that in the days of the fathers 
drained the hills whicli are no more, the red of the Italian 
would be seen forcing its way northward along the line of 
Mulberry Street to the quarter of the Fi'ench purple on 
Bleeeker Street and South Fifth Avenue, to lose itself and 
reappear, after a lapse of miles, in the " Little Italy " of 
Harlem, east of Second Avenue. Dashes of red, sharply 
defined, would be seen strung through the Annexed Dis- 
trict, northward to the city line. On the West Side the 
red would be seen oven'unning the old Africa of Thomp- 
son Street, pushing the black of the negi-o rapidly up- 
town, against querulous but unavailing protests, occupying 
his home, his churcli, his trade and all, with merciless 
impartiality. There is a church in Mulberry Street that 
lias stood for two generations as a sort of milestone of 
these migrations. Built originally for the worsliip of 
staid New Yorkers of the " old stock," it was engulfed 
by the colored tide, when the draft-riots drove the negroes 
out of reach of Cherry Street and the Five Points. With- 
in the past decade the advance wave of the Italian onset 
reached it, and to-day the arms of United Italy adorn its 
front. The negroes have made a stand at several points 
along Seventh and Eighth Avenues ; but their main body, 

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still pursued by the Italian foe, is on the march jet, and 
the blaeli marlc svill be found overshadowing to-day mauy 
blocks on the East Side, with One Iliindredtli Street aa 
the centre, where colonies of them have settled i-eeently. 

Hardly less aggressive than the Italian, the Russian and 
Polish Jew, having overrun the district between Rivington 
and Division Streets, east of the Rowery, to the pohit of 
suffocation, is filling the tenements of tlie old Seventh 
Ward to the river front, and disputing with the Italian 
every foot of available space in tlie back alleys of Mul- 
berry Street. The two races, differing hojielessly in 
much, have tliis in common : they carry their shnns with 
them wherever they go, if allowed to do it. Little Italy 
already rivals ita parent, the " Bend," in foulness. Otiier 
nationalities that begin at the bottom make a fresh start 
when crowded up the ladder. Happily both are manage- 
able, the one by i-abbinicai, the otiier by the civil law. be- 
tween the dull gray of the Jew, his favoi'ite color, and the 
Italian I'od, would be seen squeezed in on the map a sharp 
streak of yellow, marking the narrow boundanes of China- 
town. Dovetailed in with the German population, the poor 
but thrifty Boltemian might he picked out by the sombre 
hue of his life as of hia philosophy, struggling against 
heavy odds in the big human bee-hives of the East Side. 
Colonies of bis people extend northward, with long lapses 
of space, from below the Cooper Institute more than 
three miles. The Bohemian is the only foreigner with 
any considerable representation in the city who counts no 
wealthy man of his race, none who has not to work hard 
for a living, or has got beyond the i-eaeh of the tenement. 

Down near the Battery the West Side emerald would be 
soiled by a dirty stain, spreading rapidly like a splash of 
ink on a sheet of blotting paper, headquai'ters of the Arab 



tribe, that in a single year has swelled from the original 
dozen to twelve hundred, intent, every mother's son, on 
trade and barter. Dots and dashes of color here and tliere 
would show where the Finnish sailoi's worship tiieir djn- 
iriaia (God), the Greek pediars the ancient name of their 
race, and the Swiss the goddess o£ thrift. And so on to 
the end of the long register, all toiling together in the 
galling fetters of the tenement. "Were the qneation raised 
who makes the most of life thus mortgaged, who resists 
most stubbornly its levelling tendency — knows how to 
drag even the barracks upward a part of the way at least 
toward the ideal plane of the home — the palm mnst be 
unhesitatingly awarded the Teuton. The Italian and the 
poor Jew rise only by compulsion. The Chinaman does 
not rise at all ; here, as at home, he simply remains sta- 
tionary. The Irishman's genius runs to public affairs 
rather than domestic life ; wherever he is mustered in 
force the saloon is tlie gorgeous centre of political activity. 
The German struggles vainly to learn his trick ; his Ten- 
tonic wit is too heavy, and the political ladder he raises 
from his saloon usually too short or too clumsy to reach 
the desired goal. The best part of liis life is lived at 
home, and he makes himself a home independent of the 
sun'oundings, giving the lie to the saying, mihappiiy be- 
come a maxim of social truth, that pauperism and dnink- 
enness naturally grow in the tenements. He makes the 
most of ]iis tenement, and it should be added that when- 
ever and as soon as he can save up money enough, he gets 
out and never crosses the threshold of one again. 

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T^OWS" below Cliatliam Square, in tlie old Fourth 
-*— ' "Ward, where the cradle of the teiieiueiit stood, we 
shall find New York's Other Hiilf at home, receiving such 
as care to call and are not afraid. Not all of it, to he enre, 
there is not room for that ; but a fairly repi-esentative 
gathering, representative o£ its earliest and worst tradi- 
tions. Tliei'e is nothing to be afiiiid of. In this metropo- 
lis, let it he nnderstoiid, there is no pnhlie street where the 
stranger may not go safely by day and by night, provided 
he knows how to mind his own business and is sober. His 
coming and going will excite little interest, unless he is 
suspected of being a trnant otfieer, in which case he will 
be impressed with the tnitli of t!ie observation tliat the 
American stock is dying out for want of children. If lie 
escapes this snspicion and the risk of trampling npon, or 
being himself rnn down by the bewildering swarms of 
youngsters that are everywhere or nowhere as the exi- 
gency and their qnick scent of danger direct, ho will see 
no reason for dissenting fi'oni that observation. Glimpses 
canght of the parents watching tlie youngsters play from 
windows or open doorways will soon convince him that 
the native stock is in uo way involved. 

Leaving the Elevated Railroad where it dives under the 
Brooklyn Bridge at Franklin Sqnare, scarce a dozen steps 
will take ns where we wish to go. With its rush and 



roar eclioing yet in our ears, we have turned the corner 
from prosperity to poverty. We stand upon tlie domain 
of the tenement. In the shadow of the great stone abut- 
ments the old Knickerbocker houses linger like ghosts of 
a departed day. Down the winding slope of Cherry Street 
— proud and fashionable C]ierry Hill that was — their broad 
steps, sloping roofs, and dormer windows are easily made 
out; all the more easily for the contrast with the ugly bar- 
racks that elbow them right and left. These never liad 
other design than to shelter, at as little outlay as possible, 
the greatest crowds out of which i-ent could be \rrung. 
They were the bad after-thought of a heedless day. The 
years have brought to the old houses unhonored age, a 
querulous second childhood that is out of tnne with the 
time, tiieir tenants, the neighbors, and cries out against 
them and against yon in fretful protest in every step on 
their rotten flooi-s or squeaky stairs. Good cause have 
they for their fretting. This one, with its shabby front 
and poorly patched roof, what glowing firesides, what 
happy children may it once have owned? Heavy feet, 
too often with unsteady step, for the pot-house is next 
door — where is it not next door in these slums ?■ — have 
worn away the brown - stone steps since ; the broken 
columns at the door iiave rotted away at the base. Of 
the handsome cornice barely a trace is left. Dii't and 
desolation reign in the wide hallway, and danger lurks 
on the stairs. Rough pine boards fence off the roomy 
fire-places — where coal is bought by the pail at tlie 
rate of twelve dollars a ton these have no ])lace. Tho 
arched gateway leads no longer to a shady bowei- on the 
banks of the rushing stream, inviting to day-dreams with 
its gentle repose, but to a dark and nameless alley, shut 
in by high brick walls, cheerless as the lives of those they 



slioltcr. Tlie wolf kziocks loudly at tliG gate in the troubled 
dreams that coine to tliis alley,, echoes of the day's cares. 
A horde of duty children play about the dripping liy- 
drant, the only thing in the alley that thinks enough of its 

chance tu make the moht of it it in the 1 ett it ciii k 
These are the children of the tenement--, the giowirij; 
i;enerition f the slumi, this their lurne iiom the great 
highway overhead, along which throbs the life -tide of 

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two great cities, one might drop a pebble into Iialf a dozen 
Bueb alleys. 

One yawns just across the street ; not very broadly, but 
it is not to blame. The builder of the old gateway liad 
no thought of its ever becoming a public thoroughfare. 
Once inside it widens, but only to make I'ooni for a big 
box-like building with the worn and gi'easy look of the 
slum tenetnent that is stamped alike on the houses and 
their tenants down here, even on the homeless eiir tliat 
romps with the children in yonder building lot, with an 
air of expectant interest plainly betraying the forlorn hope 
that at some stage of the game a moat-bone may show up 
in the role of " It.'' Vain iiope, truly! Nothing more ap- 
petizing than a bare-legged ragamuffin appears. Meat- 
bones, not long since picked clean, are as scarce in Blind 
Man's Alley as elbow-room in any Fourtli Ward back-yard. 
The shouts of the children come hushed over the house- 
tops, as if apologizing for the intrusion. Few glad noises 
make this old alley ring. Morning and evening it echoes 
with the gentle, groping tap of the blind man's staff as 
he feels his way to the street. Blind Man's Alley bears its 
name for a reason. Until little more than a year ago its 
dark burrows harbored a colony of blind beggars, tenants 
of a blind landlord, old Daniel Murphy, whom every cliilji 
in the ward knows, if he never heard of the President of 
the United States. " Old Dan " made a big fortune — 
he told me once four hundred thousand dollars — out of 
his alley and the surrounding tenements, only to grow 
blind himself in extreme old age, sharing in the end the 
chief hardship of the wretched beings whose lot he had 
stubbornly refused to better that he might increase his 
wealth. Even when the Board of Health at last compelled 
him to repair and clean up the worst of the old buildingSj 

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;i^ now TI!K O'l'dK!! HA).F LIVES. 

under tlireat of driving out the tenants and locking tlie 
doors behind them, tlie work was accouiplislied against 
the old man's angry protests. Ho appeared in person be- 
fore the Board to argue his case, and liis argument was 

'•I have made my will," he said. "My inoniinieiit 
stands waiting for me in Calvary. I stand on the very 
- brink of the grave, blind and helpless, and now (here the 
pathos of the appeal was swept under in a burst of angry 
indignation) do yon want me to build and get skinned, 
skinned ? These people are not fit to live in a nice house. 
Let them go where they can, and let my house stand." 

In spite of the genuine anguish of the appeal, it was 
downright amusing to find that his anger was provoked 
less by the anticipated waste of luxury on his tenants than 
by distrust of his own kind, the builder. He knew intui- 
tively what to expect. Tlie result showed that Mr. Mur- 
phy had gauged his tenants correctly. The cleaning np 
process apparently destroyed the home-feeling of the al- 
ley ; many of the blind people moved away and did not 
return. Some remained, however, and the name has 
clung to the place. 

Some idea of what is meant by a sanitary "cleaning 
up" in these slums may be gained from the account of a 
mishap I met with once, in taking a flash-light picture of 
a greup of blind beggars in one of the tenements down 
here. With unpractised liands I managed to set fire to 
the house. "When the blinding effect of the flasli had 
passed away and I could see once more, I discovered that 
a lot of paper and rags that hung on the wall were ablaze. 
There were six of us, five blind men and women who 
knew nothing of their danger, and myself, in an attic 
room with a dozen crooked, rickety stairs between us and 

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the street, and as many households as helpless as the one 
whose gueet I was all about us. The thougiit: how were 
tliey ever to be got out ? made my blood run cold ae I saw 
the flames creeping np the wall, and my first impulse was 
to bolt for the street and shout for help. The next was 
to smother the fire myself, and I did, with a vast deal of 
trouble. Afterward, when I came down to the street I 
told a friendly policeman of my trouble. For some reason 
he thought it rather a good joke, and lauglied immoder- 
ately at my concern lest even then spai'ks should be bur- 
rowing hi the rotten wall that miglit yet break out in 
fiame and destroy the house with all that were in it. lie 
told me why, when he found time to draw breath. "Why, 
don't you know," he said, "that house is the Dirty Spoon? 
It caught fire six times last winter, but it wouldn't bum. 
The dirt was so thick on the walls, it smotliered the fire ! " 
"Which, if true, shows that water and dirt, not usually held 
to be harmonious elements, work together for the good of 
those who insure houses. 

Sunless and joyless tliongh it be, Blind Man's Alley has 
that which its-compeers of tlie shims vainly yearn for. It 
has a pay-day. Once a year sunlight shines into the lives 
of its forlorn crew, past and present. In June, when the 
Superintendent of Out-door Poor distributes the twenty 
thousand dollars annually allowed the poor blind by the 
city, in half-iiearted recognition of its failure to otherwise 
provide for them, Blindman's Alley takes a day off and 
goes to " see " Mr. Blake. That night it is noisy with un- 
wonted merriment. Tliere is scraping of squeaky fiddles 
in tiie dark rooms, and cracked old voices sing long-for- 
gotten songs. Even the blind landlord rejoices, for much 
of the money goes into his coffers. 

From their perch np among the rafters Mi-s. Gallagher's 

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,.., , Cooole 


blind boardei'S might liear, did they listen, the tramp of the 
policeman always on duty in Gotliam Coui't, half a stone's 
throw away. Ilia heat, though it takes in but a small 
portion of a single block, is quite as lively as most larger 
patrol rounds. A double row of five-story tenements, 
back to back under a common roof, extending back from 
the street two hundred and thirty-four feet, with barred 
openings in the dividing wall, so that the tenants may see 
but cannot get at each other from the stairs, makes the 
" court." Alleys — one wider by a conplo of feet than the 
other, whence the distinction Single and Double Alley — 
skirt the barracks on either side. Such, briefly, is the 
tenement that baa challenged public attention more than 
any other in the whole city and tested the power of sani- 
tary law and rule for forty years. The name of tiie pile is 
not down in the City Directory, but in the public records 
it holds an unenviable place. It was here the mortality 
rose during the last great cholera epidemic to the unpre- 
cedented rate of 195 in 1,000 inhabitants. In its worst 
days a full tiiousand coufd not be packed into the court, 
though the nnmber did probably not fall far short of it. 
Even now, under the management of men of conscience, 
and an agent, a King's Daughter, whose practical energy, 
kindliness and good sense have done much to redeem its 
foul reputation, the swarms it sheltei's would make more 
than one fair-sized country village. The mixed character 
of the population, by this time about equally divided be- 
tween the Celtic and the Italian stock, accounts for the 
iron bars and the policeman. It was an eminently Irish 
suggestion that the latter was to be credited to the pres- 
ence of two German families in the court, who " made 
trouble all the time." A Chinaman whom I questioned 
as he hurried past the iron gate of the alley, put the mat- 

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36 now riir. otiieii iiai-k lives. 

ter in a different liglit. " Lem Ilisli veJly bad," iie said. 
Gotham Court lias been tlie entering wedge for the Italian 
hordes, which until recently had not attained a foothold 
in the Fourth "Ward, bnt are now trailing across Cliathani 
Street from tlieir stronghold in " the Bend " in ever in- 
creasing mnnbers, seeking, according to their wont, the 
lowest level. 

It is ciirions to find that this notorious block, whose 
name was so long synonymous with all that was desper- 
ately bad, was originally built (in 1851) by a benevolent 
Quaker for the express purpose of rescuing the poor 
people from the dreadful i-ookeries tliey were then living 
in. How long it continued a model tenement is not on 
record. It could not have been veiy long, for already in 
1862, ten years after it was finished, a sanitary official 
counted liG cases of sickness in the court, including "all 
kinds of infectious disease,'" from sniall-pox down, and re- 
ported that of 138 children bom in it in less than three 
years 61 liad died, mostly before tliey were one year old. 
Seven years later the inspector of the district reported to 
the Board of Health that "nearly ten per cent, of the 
population is sent to the public Iiospitals each year." 
"When the alley was finallj- taken in hand by the authori- 
ties, and, as a first step toward its reclamation, the entire 
population was driven out by the police, experience dic- 
tated, as one of the first improvements to be made, the put- 
ting in of a kind of sewer-grating, so constructed, as the 
official report patiently puts it, " as to prevent the ingress 
of pereons disposed to make a hiding-place " of the sewer 
and the cellars into which they opened. The fact was 
that the big vaulted sewei-s had long been a rnnway for 
thieves — the Swamp Angels— who through them easily es- 
caped wbeTi chased by the police, as well as a storehouse 

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for tlieir plunder, Tlie sewers are there to-day; in fact 
the two alleys are nothing but the roofs of these enormous 
tunnels ni whidi a man may walk upright the full dis- 
tance of the block and into the Cheny Sti'eet sewer — if 
he likes the fun and is not afraid of rats. Could their 
grimy walls speak, the big eanale might tell many a start- ■ 
ling tale. But they are silent enough, and so are most of 
those whose secrets tliey miglit betray. The flood-gates 
connecting witli the Cherry Street main are closed now, 
except when the water is drained off. Then there wei'e 
no gates, and it is on record that the sewers were chosen 
as a shoi't cut habitually by residents of the court whose 
business lay on the line of them, near a manhole, perhaps, 
in Cherry Street, or at the river month of the big pipe 
when it was clear at low tide. "Mc Jimmy," said one 
wrinkled old dame, who looked in while we were nosing 
about nnder Double Alley, " he used to go to his work along 
down Cherry Street that way every morning and come 
back at night." The associations must have been congenial. 
Probably *' Jimmy " himself fitted into the landscape. 

Half-way back from tlie street in this latter alley is a 
tenement, facing the main building, on the west side of the 
way, that was not originally pai-t of the court proper. It 
stands there a curious monument to a Quaker's revenge, 
a living illustration of the power of hate to perpetuate 
its bitter fruit beyond the grave. The lot upon which 
it is built was the property of John Wood, brother of 
Silas, the builder of Gotham Court. lie sold the Clierry 
Street front to a man who built upon it a tenement with 
entrance only from the street, Mr. "Wood afterward quar- 
relled about the partition line with his neighboi-, Aldei-- 
man Mullins, who had pnt up a long tenement barrack on 
his lot after the style of the Court, and the Alderman 

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knocked hiin down. Tradition records tiiat tlie Quaker 
picked hiuiself up witk the quiet I'eiiiark, '• I will pay thee 
for that, friend Alderman," and went his way. His man- 
ner of paying was to pnt up the big building in the reai' 
of 31 Cherry Street with an itnuienBC blank wall right in 
front of tlie windows of Alderman Miillins's tenements, 
shutting out effectually light and air from them. But 
as he had no access to the street from liis building for 
many years it could not be let or used for anything, anti 
remained vacant nntil it passed under the managomeiit 
of the Gotham Court property. Mnllins's Court is there 
yet, and so is the Quaker's vengeful wall that has cuised 
the lives of thousands of innocent people since. At its 
farther end the alley between the two that begins inside 
the Cherry Street tenement, six or seven feet wide, nar- 
rows down to loss than two feet. It is bai-ely possible 
to squeeze through ; but few care to do it, for the rift 
leads to the jail of the Oak Street police station, and 
therefore is not popular witli the growing youth of the 

There is crape on the door of the Alderman's court as 
we pass out, and upstairs in one of the tenements pi'epara- 
tions are making for a wake. A man lies dead in the hos- 
pital who was cut to pieces in a "can racket" in the alley 
on Sunday, The sway of the excise law is not extended 
to these back alleys. It would matter little if it were. 
There are secret by-ways, and some it is not held worth 
while to keep secret, along which the "growler" wanders 
at all hours and all seasons unmolested. It climbed the 
stairs so long and so often that day tliat nnii'der resulted. 
It is nothing unusual on Cherry Street, notliing to " make 
a fuss " about. Xot a week before, two cii- tliree blocks up 
the street, tlie police felt called upon to interfere in one of 

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these can rackets at two o'clock in tlie morning, to secure 
peace for tlie neigh borliood. Tlie interference took tlie 
form of a general fusillade, during which one of the die- 
turbere fell off the roof and was killed. There was tlie 
usual wake and nothing more was Iieard of it. "What, 
indeed, was there to say ? 

The " Rock of Ages " is the name over the door of a 
low saloon that blocks the entrance to another alley, if 
possible more forlorn and dreaiy than the rest, as we pass 
out of the Alderman's court. It sounds like a jeer from 
the days, happily past, when the " wickedest man in Kew 
York" lived around the corner a little way and hoasted of 
his title. One cannot take many steps in Cherry Street 
without encountering some relie of past or present promi- 
nence in the .ways of crime, scarce one that does not turn 
up specimen hricks of the coming thief. The Cherry 
Street tough is all-pervading. Ask Superintendent Mur- 
ray, who, as captain of the Oak Street squad, in seven 
months secui'ed convictions for theft, robbery, and murder 
aggregating no less than five luindred and thirty years 
of penal servitude, and he will tell yon his opinion tliat 
the Fourth Ward, even in the last tweiity yeai's, lias 
turned out more criminals than all the rest of the city 

But though the "Swamp Angels" have gone to their 
reward, their successors carry on business at the old stand 
as successfully, if not as holdiy. Tiiere goes one who was 
once a shinuig light in thiefdom. lie has reformed since, 
they say. The policeman on the corner, who is addicted 
to a professional unbelief in I'eform of any kind, will tell 
you that while on the Island once he sailed away on a 
shutter, paddling along until he wiis picked up in Hell 
Gate hy a scliooner's crew, whom he persuaded that he 

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was a fanatic performing some sort of religions penaiit-e 
by his singular expedition. Over yonder, Tweed, tlie 
arcli-thief, worked in a brnsli-sliop and earned an honest 
living before lie took to politics. As we stroll from one 
narrow street to another the odd eonti'ast between the low, 
old-looking Jionses in front and the towering tenements in 
the back yards grows even more striking, pei'haps because 
we expect and are looking for it. Kobody who was not 
would suspect the presence of the rear houses, though 
tliey have been there long enough. Here is one seven 
stories high behind one with only three floors. Take a 
look into this Roosevelt Street allej' ; just about one step 
wide, witli a five-story house on one side that gets its light 
and air — God help us for pitiful mockery ! — from this 
alit betM'een biick walls. There are no windows in the 
wall on the other side; it is perfectly blank. Tlie fire- 
escapes of the long tenement fairly touch it ; but the rays 
of the sun, rising, setting, or at high noon, never do. It 
never shone into the alley from the day the devil planned 
and man built it. There was once an Englisli doctor who 
experimented witii the sunlight in the soldiers' barracks, 
and found that on the side that was shut off altogether 
from the sun the mortality was one lumdred per cent, 
greater tlian on the light side, where its rays had free ac- 
cess. But then soldiers ai'e of some account, have a fixed 
value, if not a very high one. Tlie people who live here 
have not. The horse that pulls the dirt-cart one of these 
laborers loads and unloads is of ever so iiinch more ac- 
count, to the employer of his labor than he and all that 
belongs to him. Ask the owner ; he will not attempt to 
deny it, if the horse is worth anytliing. The man too 
knows it. It is the one thought that occasionally troubles 
the owner of tlic liorso in the enjoyment of his prosperity, 



built of and upon the successful assertion of the truth 
that all men are ci'eated equal. 

With what a sliock did the story of yonder Madison 
Street alley come home to New Vorkei's one morning, 
eight or ten years ago, when a five that broke out after the 
men had gone to their work swept up those narrow stairs 
and bunied up women and children to the number of a 
full half score. There were fire-escapes, yes! but so 
placed that they could not be reached. The firemen Lad 
to look twice before they could find the opening that 
passes for a thoroughfare ; a stout man would never ven- 
ture in. Some woiidei-f ully heroic rescues were made at 
that fire by people living in tlie adjoining tenements. 
Danger and trouble- — of the imminent kind, not the every- 
day sort that excites neither interest nor commiseration — 
run even this common clay into heroic moulds on occa- 
sion ; occasions that help us to remember that the gap 
that separates the man with the patched coat from liis 
wealthy neighbor is, after all, perhaps but a tenement. Yet, 
what a gap ! and of whose making ? Here, as we stroll 
along Madison Street, workmen are busy putting the fin- 
ishing touches to the brown-stone front of a tall new ten- 
ement. This one will probably be called an apartment 
liouse. They are carving satyrs' heads in the stone, with 
a crowd of gaping youngsters looking on in admiring 
wonder. Next door are two other tenements, likewise 
with brown-stone fronts, fair to look at. Tiie youngest of 
the children in the group is not too young to remember 
liow their army of tenants was turned out by the health 
officers because the houses had been condemned as unfit 
for human beings to live in. The owner was a wealthy 
builder who *' stood high in the community." Is it only 
in our fancy that the sardonic leer on the stone faces 



Bceiiis to list tliat way ? Or is it an introspective grin ; 
We will iiot ask if tlie new house belongs to tlie same 
builder. He too may have I'eformed. 

We have crossed the boundary of tiic Seventh "Ward. 
Penitentiary Row, suggestive name for a block of Cherry 
Street tenemeuts, is behind us. Within recent days it 
has become peopled wholly witli Hebrews, the overflow 
from Jewtown adjoining, pedlars and tailors, all of them. 
It is odd to read this legend from other days over the 
door: "Xo pedlars allowed iii this bouse." These thrifty 
people are not only crowding into the tenements of tliis 
once exclusive district— they a]-e buying them. The Jew 
runs to real estate as soon as be can save up enough for a 
deposit to clinch the bargain. As fast as the old liouses 
are torn down, towering structures go up in their place, 
and Hebrews are found to be the buildei^s. Here is a 
whole alley nicknamed after the intruder, Jews' Alley. 
But abuse and ridicule are not weapons to fight the Isra- 
elite with. He pockets them quietly with the rent and 
bides his time. He knows from experience, botli sweet 
and bitter, that all tilings come to those who wait, includ- 
ing the liouses and lands of their persecutors. 

Here coines a pleasure party, as gay as any on tlio ave- 
nue, though the carry-all is an ash-cart. The father is the 
driver and lie has taken bis brown -ieggetl boy for a ride. 
How proud and happy they both look up tbei-e on tlieir 
perch ! The queer old building they have iialted in front 
of is " The Ship," famous for fifty years as a ramshackle 
tenement filled with the oddest crowd. No one knows why 
it is called ■■The Ship," tboiigb there is a tradition that 
once the river came clear np here to Hamilton Street, and 
boats were moored along-side it. More likely it is l>ecanse 
it is as bewildering inside as a crazy old ship, with its nps 

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and downs of Jadders parading as staii's, and its unexpected 
pitfalls. But Hauiiltoii Street, like Water Street, is not 
what it was. The missions drove fi-om the latter the 
worst of its dives, A sailors' mission has lately made its 
appearance in namilton Street, hut there are no dives 
there, nothing worse than the ubiquitous saloon and tongli 

Enough of them everywhere. Suppose we look into 
one ? No. — Cherry Street. Be a little careful, please ! 
The hail is dark and you might stumble over the chil- 
dren pitciiing pennies back there. Kot that it would hurt 
them ; kicks and enffs are their daily diet. They have lit- 
tle else. Here where the hall turns and dives into utter 
darkness is a step, and anothei', anotlier. A flight of 
stairs, Yoh can feel your way, if you cannot see it. 
Close ? Yes ! What would you have ? All the fresh air 
that ever enters these stairs comes from tiie hall-door 
that is forever slamming, and from the windows of dark 
bedrooms that in turn receive from the stairs their sole 
supply of the elements God meant to be free, but man 
deals out with such niggardly hand. That was a woman 
filling her pail by the hydrant youjnst bumped against. 
The sinks are in the hallway, that all the tenants may have 
access — and all be poisoned alike by tiieir summer stenches. 
Hear the pnmp squeak 1 It is the lullaby of tenenient- 
liouse babes. In summer, when a thousand tbii'sty tlii'oats 
pant for a cooling drink in this block, it is worked in vain. 
But the saloon, whose open door you passed in the ball, 
is always there. The smell of it has followed yon up. 
Here is a door. Listen ! That short hacking cough, that 
tiny, helpless wail — what do they mean? They mean 
that the soiled bow of white you saw on the door down- 
stairs will have another stoiy to tell — Oh ! a sadly famil- 

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iar story — before the day is at an end. Tlic eliiid is dying 
witii measles. Witli lialf a eliaiice it might have lived ; 
but it had none. That dark bedroom killed it. 

"It was took all of a suddiut," says the inother, sinooth- 
iiig the throbbing little body with trembling hands. Tliere 
is no iinkiiidneas in the rough voice of the man in the 
jumper, who sits by tlie window grimly smoking a ehiy 
pipe, with the little life ebbuig out in iiia sight, bitter as 
his words sound : " llueh, Mary ! If we cannot keep the 
baby, need we complain — such as \vc ? " 

Such as we ! What if the words ring in your ears as we 
grope our way up the stairs and down from floor to floor, 
listening to the sounds behind the closed doors — some 
of quarrelling, some of coarse songs, moi-e of profanity. 
They are true. When the summer lieats come with their 
suffering they have meaning more teiTible tliau words can 
tell. Come over here. Step carefully over this baby — 
it is a baby, spite of its rags and dirt— under these iron 
bridges called fii'e-escapes, but loaded down, despite the 
incessant watchfulness of the firemen, with broken house- 
hold goods, with wash-tubs and barrels, over which no 
man could climb from a fire. This gap between dingy 
brick-walls is the yard. Tliat sti-ip of smoke-colored skv 
up there is the heaven of these people. Do you wonder 
the name does not attract them to the cliurciies? That 
baby's parents live in the rear tenement here. She is at 
least as clean as the steps we are now climbing. There 
are plenty of houses witli half a hundred such in. The 
tenement is much like the one in front we just left, only 
fouler, closer, darker— we will not say moj-e cheerless. 
The word is a mockery. A hundred thousaiid people lived 
in rear tenements in Xew York last year. Here is a room 
neater tiiari the rest. The woman, a stout matron with 

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hard lines of care in Iier face, ia at the wash-tub. " I try 
to keep the chiider clean," she says, apologetically, but 

with a hopeless glante ir mil The sp ce rf hot 6o^p 
ands is added to tl e iir ilread\ tainted with tl e smell of 
boiling cabbage of ngs iiid iincleanline'ss ill about It 
makes an overpoweimg com] onnd It is, Thiirs lay bnt 

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46 now THE OTHEl; IIAI.r I.IVES. 

patched linen is luiiig upon the iniHej'-line from the win- 
dow. There is no Monday deaninj; in [he tenements. It 
is wash-day all tlie week round, for a change of clothing 
is scarce among the poor, Tlicy are poverty's honest 
badge, these perennial lines of rags hung out to dry, those 
that are not the washerwoman's professional shingle. 
The true line to be drawn between pauperism and honest 
jjoverty is the elothes-liue. With it begins the effort to be 
clean that is the first aud the best evidence of a desire to 
be honest. 

What sort of an answer, think yon, wonld come from 
these tenements to the question "Is life worth living ? " 
were they heard at all in the discussion ? It may be that 
this, cut from the last report but one of the Association 
for the Improvement of the Condition of the Poor, a long 
name for a weary task, has a suggestion of it: "In the 
depth of winter the attention of the Association was called 
to a Protestant family livuig in a garret in a miserable 
tenement in Cherry Street, Tlie faunly's condition was 
most deplorable. The man, his wife, and three small 
children shivering in one room through the roof of which 
the pitiless winds of winter whistled. The room was al- 
most barren of furniture ; the parents slept on the floor, the 
elder children in boxes, and the baby was swung in an old 
shawl attached to the raftei's by cords by way of a ham- 
mock. The father, a seaman, had been obliged to give 
up that calling because he was in consumption, and was 
unable to provide either bread or fire for his little ones." 

Perhaps this may be put down as an exceptional case, 
but one that came to my notice some months ago in a 
Seventh Wai-d tenement was typical enough to escape 
that reproach. Tliere were nine in the family : liusband, 
wife, an aged grandmotlier, and six children ; honest, liard- 

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working Germans, sci'iipulously neat, but poor. All nine 
lived in two rooms, one about ten feet square tbat Berved 
as parlor, bedroom, and eating-room, tlie other a small 
hall-i-oom made into a kitchen. The rent was seven dol- 
lars and a, half a month, more than a week's wages for the 
husband and father, wlio was the only bread-winner in the 
family. That day the mother had thrown lierself out of 
the window, and was carried up from the street dead. 
She was "discouraged," said some of t!ie other women 
from the tenement, who had come in to look after the 
children while a messenger carried the news to the father 
at the shop. They went stolidly about their task, although 
they were evidently not without feeling for the dead wom- 
an. Ko doubt she was wrong in not taking life philo- 
sophically, as did the four families a city missionary found 
housekeeping in the four corners of one room. They got 
along well enough together until one of the families took 
a boarder and made trouble. Philosophj', according to 
my optimistic friend, naturally inhabits the tenements. 
The people who live there come to look npon death in a 
different way from the rest of us — do not take it as hard. 
lie has never found time to explain haw the fact fits into 
his general theory that life is not nnbeai'able in the tene- 
ments. Unhappily for the philosophy of the slums, it is 
too apt to be of the kind that readily recognizes the saloon, 
always handy, as the refuge from every trouble, and shapes 
its practice according to the discover}'. 

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CERTAINLY a picturesque, if not veiy tidy, element 
lias been added to the population in the " assisted " 
Italian immigrant who claims so large a share of public 
attention, partly because lie keeps coming at such a tre- 
mendous rate, but chiefly hecanse he elects to stay in 
New York, or near enough for it to serve as his base of 
operations, and here promptly reproduces conditions of 
destitntioii and disorder which, set in tlie frame-work of 
Mediterranean exuberance, are the delight of the artist, 
but ill a matter-of-fact American community become its 
danger and repi'oaeh. The reproduction is made easier in 
New York because he finds the material ready to hand in 
the worst of the ehim tenements ; bnt even where it is not 
he soon reduces wlmt he does find to his own level, if allow- 
ed to follow his natural bent,* The Italian comes in at tlie 
bottom, and in the generation that came over the sea he 
stays tliere. In the slums he is welcomed as a tenant wJio 
"makes less tronble" than the contentious Irishman or 
the order-loving German, tliat is to say : is content to li\e 
in a pig-sty and submits to robbeiy at the hands of the 
rent-collector withont murmur. Yet this very tractability 
makes of him in good liands, when firmly and intelligently 

* The process can lie observed in the Italian tenements in Harlem 
(Little Italy), which, since their occupation by tlieae people, have been 
graduallv sinking to the slum level. 


managed, a really desirable tenant. But it is not his good 
fortune often to fall in with other hospitality upon his 
'coming than that which brought him here for its own 
profit, and has no idea of letting go its grip upon him as 
long as there is a cent to be made out of liim. 

Eeeent Congressional inqniries have shown the nature of 
the " assistance" he receives from greedy steamship agents 
and "bankers," who persuade him by false promises to 
mortgage his homo, his few belongings, and his wages for 
months to come for a ticket to the land where plenty of 
work is to be had at princely wages. The padrone-^the 
" banker" is nothing else — having made his ten per cent. 
out of him en route, receives him at the landing and turns 
him to double account as a wage-earner and a rent-payer. 
In each of these roles he is made to yield a profit to his 
unscrupnlous countryman, whom he trusts implicitly with 
the instinct of utter helplessness. The man is so ignorant 
tliat, as one of the sharpers who prey upon him put it 
once, it "would be downright sinful not to take him in." 
His ignorance and unconquerable suspicion of strangers 
dig the pit into which he falls. lie not only knows no 
word of English, but he does not know enough to learn. 
Rarely only can he write his own language. Unlike the 
German, who begins learning English the day he lands as 
a matter of duty, or the Polish Jew, who takes it up as 
soon as he is able as an investment, the Italian learns 
slowly, if at all. Even his boy, born here, often speaks 
liis native tongue indifferently, lie is forced, therefore, to 
have constant recourse to the middle-man, who makes him 
pay handsomely at every turn. He hires him out to tlie 
railroad contractor, receiving a commission from the em- 
ployer as well as from the laborer, and repeats tlie perform- 
ance monthly, or as often as he can have him dismissed. 

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50 ui)V. I'liK <irTiKii H.vr.i- i.n km. 

In the city lie contracts for liis lodging, subletting to liini 
space in the vilest tenements at extortionate J'ents, and sets 
an example that does not lack imitators. The " princely 
wages" have vanished with his coming, and in their place 
Iwrdships and a dollar a day, belieft with the padrone's 
merciless mortgage, confront him. lived to even woi'sc 
fare, lie takes both as a matter of course, and, applying tlii' 
maxim that it is not what one makes but what ho saves 
tliat makes him rich, manages to tnrn the very dirt of the 
streets into a hoard of gold, with which he either returns 
to his Southern home, or brings over his family to join in 
his work and in his fortunes the ne.xt season. 

The discovery was made by earlier explorers that there 
is money in Xew "fork's ash-harrel, but it was left to the 
genius of the padrone to develop the full resources of the 
mine that has become the exclusive preserve of the Itidlan 
immigrant. Only a few yeai-s ago, when rag-picking Avas 
carried on in a desultory and irresponsible sort of way, 
the city hired gangs of men to trim the ash-scows before 
they were sent out to sea. Tiie trimming consisted in 
levelling out the dirt as it was dumped from the carts, so 
that the scow might be evenly loaded. The men were 
paid a dollar and a half a day, kept what they found 
that was worth having, and allowed the swarms of Italians 
who hung about tlie dumps to do the heavy work for 
tliem, letting them liave their pick uf the loads for their 
trouble. To-day Italians contract for the M'ork, paying 
largo sums to be permitted tu do it. The city received 
not less than §80,000 last year for the sale of this privi- 
lege to the contractors, who in addition have ti> pay gangs 
of their countrymen for sorting out the hones, rags, tin 
cans and oth'er waste that are fomid in the ashes and form 
the staples of their trade and their sources of i-eveiiue. 

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The effect lias been vastly to increase the power of tlie 
padi-one, or Lis ally, tlie contractor, by giving liiin exclu- 
sive control of tbe one industry in wliicli the Italian was 
formerly an independent "dealer," and redncingbim liter- 
ally to tlie plane of tbe dump. Whenever the Lack of the 
sanitary police is turned, he will mabe hie home in tbo 
filtiiy bnrrowa where be works by day, sleeping and eat- 
ing his meals nnder the dump, on the edge of slimy depths 
and amid snrroundings fnll of unutterable horror. Tlie 
city did not bargahi to bouse, though it is content lo 
board, liim so long as be can make the ash-barrels yield tbe 
food to keep liim alive, and a vigoi-ous campaign is car- 
ried on at intervals against these unlicensed dnnip settle- 
ments ; but tbe temptation of having to pay no rent is too 
strong, and they are driven from one dump only to find 
lodgement under another a few blocks farther up or down 
tbe river. Tlie fiercest warfare is waged over the patron- 
age of the dumps by rival factions represented by oppos- 
ing contractoi-s, and it has happened that tbe defeated 
party has endeavored to capture by sti-ategy wiiat be 
failed to can-y by assault. It augurs unsuspected adapta- 
bility in tbe Italian to our system of self-government tliat 
these livalriea liave more than once been suspected of be- 
ing behind tlie sharpening of city ordinances, that were 
apparently made in good faith to prevent meddling witli 
tlie refuse in tbe asb-barrels or ia transit. 

Did tbe Italian always adapt himself as readily to tbe 
operation of tbe civil law as to the manipulation of polit- 
ical "pull" on occasion, he wonld save himself a good 
deal of unnecessary trouble. Ordinarily be is easily enough 
governed by authority — always excepting Sunday, when he 
settles down to a game of cards and lets loose all liis bad 
passions. Like the Chinese, the Italian is a horn gambler. 



His soul is ill the game from the moment the cards are ou 
the table, aud very fi'equeutly his knife is in it too before 
tlie game is ended. Xo Sunday has passed in New York 
since " the Bend " became a suburb of Naples witliout one 
or more of these umrderous affrays coming to the notice 
of the police. As a rule that happens only when the man 
the game went against is either dead or so badly ■woiuided 
as to require instant surgical help. As to tlie other, iniless 
he be caught red-handed, the chances tliat the police will 
ever get him are slim indeed. The wounded man can 
seldom be persuaded to betray him. He wards oft all in- 
quiries with a wicked " I fix him myself," and tliere the 
matter rests until he either dies or recovers. If tlie latter, 
tlie community hears after a wliile of another Italian 
affray, a man stabbed in a quarrel, dead or dying, and 
the police know that " he " has been fixed, and the ac- 
count squared. 

With all his conspicuous faults, the swarthy Italian 
immigrant has his redeeming traits. He is as honest as 
he is hot-headed. There are no Italian burglars in the 
Rogues' Gallery ; the ex-brigand toils peacefully with 
pickaxe and shovel on American ground. His boy occa- 
sionally shows, as a pick-pocket, the results of his training 
with the toughs of the Sixth Ward slums. Tiie only 
cnminal business to which the father occasionally lends 
his hand, outside of murder, is a bunco game, of which his 
confiding countrymen, returiiing with their hoard to their 
native land, are the victims. The women are faithful 
wives and devoted mothera. Their vivid and picturesque 
costumes lend a tinge of color to the otherwise dull monot- 
ony of the slums they inhabit. The Italian is gay, light- 
hearted and, if his fur is not stroked the wrong way, in- 
offensive as a child. His worst offence ia that he keeps 

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the stale-beer dives. Wliei-e liis lieadquarters is, in the 
Mulberry Street Bend, these vile dens flourish and gather 
about them all the H-recks, the utterly wretched, tlie hope- 
lessly lost, on the lowest slope of depraved Immanity, 
Aud out of their niiaory lie makes a profit. 

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"VTTHKRE Mulberry Street crooks like an elbow within 
' ' hail of tlie old depravity of the Five Points, is 
"the Bend," foul core of New York's shuns. Long years 
ago the cows coming home from the pasture trod a path 
over thia hill. Echoes of tinkling bells linger there still, 
biit tliey do not call up memories of green meadows and 
KTimmer fields ; they pi'oelaiin the home-coming of the rag- 
picker's cart. In the memory of man the old cow-path 
has never been other than a vast hnman pig-sty. There 
is but one " Bend " in the world, and it is enough. The 
city authorities, moved by the angi'y pi-otests of ten years 
of sanitary reform effort, have decided that it is too much 
and must come down. Another Paradise Park will take 
its place and let in sunlight and air to work such transfor- 
mation as at the Five Points, around the corner of the next 
block. Never was change more urgently needed. Around 
" the Bend " cluster the bulk of the tenements that are 
stamped as altogether bad, even by the optimists of the 
Health Department. Incessant raids cannot keep down 
the crowds that make them tlieir home. In tlie scores of 
back alleys, of stable lanes and hidden byways, of which 
the rent collector alone can keep track, they share sucli 
shelter as the ramshackle struetares afford with everj' kind 
of abomination ritied from the dnmps and ash-barrels of 
the city. Here, too, shunning the light, skulks the un- 



clean beast of dislionest idleness. " Tlie Bend " is the 
home of tlie tramp as well as the rag-picker. 

It is not much more than twenty years since a census 
of " the Bend " district returned only twenty-four of tlio 
six Imndred and nine tenements as in decent condition. 
Tliree-fourtlis of tlie population of the *' Bloody Sixth " 
Ward wei'e then Irisli. The army of tramps that grew up 
after the disbandment of the armies in the field, and Jias 
kept up its muster-roll, together with the in-i'ush of the 
Italian tide, have ever since opposed a stubborn barrier to 
all efforts at permanent improvement. The more that has 
been done, the less it has seemed to accomplish in the 
way of real relief, until it has at last become clear that 
nothing short of entire demolition will ever prove of I'ad- 
ical benefit. Corruption could not have chosen ground 
for its stand with better promise of success. The whole 
district is a m.ize of narrow, often unsuspected passage- 
ways — necessarily, for there is scarce a lot that has not 
two, three, or four tenements upon it, swarming with 
unwholesome crowds. AVhat a birds-eye view of "the 
Bend " would be like is a matter of bewildering conject- 
ure. Its everyday appearance, as seen from the coi'iier of 
Bayard Street on a sunny day, is one of the sights of New 

Bayard Str'eet is the high road to Jewtown across the 
Bowery, picketed from end to end with the ontposts of 
Israel. Hebrew faces, Hebrew signs, and incessant chat- 
ter in the queer lingo that passes for Hebrew on the East 
Side attend the curious wandei-er to the very corner of 
Mulberry Street. But the moment he turns the corner 
the scene changes abruptly. Before him lies spread out 
what might better be the market-place in some town in 
Southern Italy than a street in New York — all but the 



houses; they are still the same old tenements of the un- 
romantic type. But for ouee they do not make the fore- 
ground in a slum picture from the American metropolis. 
The interest centres not in them, but in the crowd they 
ehelter only when the street is not preferable, and that 
with the Italiaa is only when it rains or he is sick. When 
the sua shines the entire population seeks the street, car- 
rying on its household work, its bargaining, its love-mak- 
ing on street or sidewalk, or idling there when it has 
nothing better to do, with the reverse of the impulse that 
makes the Polish Jew coop liimself up in his den with 
the thermometer at stewing Iieat. Along the curb wom- 
en sit in rows, young and old aUke with the odd head-cov- 
ering, pad or turban, that is their badge of servitude — 
herd's to bear the burden as long as she lives — haggling 
over baskets of frowsy weeds, some sort of salad prob- 
ably, stale tomatoes, and oranges not above suspicion. Asli- 
barrela serve them as counters, and not infrequently does 
the arrival of tlie official cart en route for the dump cause 
a temporary suspension of trade until the barrels have 
been emptied and restored. Hucksters and pedlars' carts 
make two rows of booths in the street itself, and along the 
liouses is still another — a perpetual market doing a very 
lively trade in its own queer staples, found nowhere on 
American ground save in " the Bend." Two old hags, 
camping on the pavement, are dispensing stale bread, 
baked not in loaves, hut in the shape of big wreaths like 
exaggerated crullers, out of bags of dirty bed-tick. There 
is no use disguising the fact; they look like and they prob- 
ably are old mattresses mustered into service under the 
pressure of a I'ush of trade. Stale bread was the one ar- 
ticle the health officers, after a raid on the market, once re- 
ported as " not unwholesome." It was only disgusting. 

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Here is a brawny biitclier, sleeves rolled iip above the el- 
bows and clay pipe in moutli, skimiing a kid tliat hangs 
from ills hook. Tliey will tell yon with a laugh at the 
Elizabeth Street police station that only a few days ago 
when a dead goat had been reported lying in Pell Street 
it was mysterionsly missing by the time the offal-cart came 
to take it away. It tnrned ont that an Italian had carried 
it off iu his sack to a wake or feast of some sort in one of 
the back alleys. 

On either side of the narrow entrance to Bandit's Eoosr, 
one of the most notorious of these, is a shop that is a fair 
sample of the sort of invention necessity is the mother of 
in " the Bend."' It is not enough that trucks and ash-bar- 
rels have provided four distinct lines of shops that are 
not down on the insurance maps, to accommodate the 
crowds. Here have the very hallways been made into 
shops. Three feet wide by four deep, they lia^e jnst 
room for one, the shop-keeper, who, himself within, does 
his business outside, his wares displayed on a board hung 
across wliat was once the liall door. Back of the rear 
wall of this unique shop a hole has been punched from 
the liall hito the alley and the tenants go that way. One 
of the shops is a "tobacco bureau," presided over by an 
unknown saint, done in yellow and red— there is not a 
shop, a stand, or an ash-barrel doing duty for a counter, 
tJiat has not its patron saint — the other is a iish-stand full 
of slimy, odd-looking creatures, fish that never swam in 
American waters, or if they did, were never seen on an 
American fish-stand, and snails. Big, awkward sausages, 
anything but appetizing, hang in the grocer's doorway, 
knocking against the customer's head as if to remind him 
that they are there waiting to be bought. What they are 
I never had the courage to ask, Down the street comes 




a file of women carrying enormous bmidles of fire-wood 
on tlieir heads, loads of decaying vegetables fi'oin tlie 
raai"ket wagons in tlieir aprons, and eacli a baby at the 
breast supported by a sort of sling that prevents it from 
tumbling down, Tlie women do all the can-ying, all the 
work one sees going on in "the Bend." The men sit or 
stand in the streets, on trucks, or in the open doors of tlio 
saloons smoking black clay pipes, talking and gesticulat- 
ing as if forever on the point of coming to blows. Kear 
a particularly boistei'ous gronp, a really pretty gii'l with a 
string of amber beads twisted artlessly in the knot of her 
raven hair has been bargainhig long and earnestly with 
an old granny, who presides over a wheel-barrow load of 
second-hand stockings and faded cotton yarn, industri- 
ously darning the biggest holes while she extols the vir- 
tues of her stock. One of the rude swains, with patched 
overalls tucked into his boots, to whom the girl's eyes 
have strayed more than once, steps up and gallantly of- 
fers to pick her out the handsomest pair, whereat she 
laughs and pushes hiin away with a gestnre which he in- 
terprets as an invitation to stay; and he does, evidently 
to the satisfaction of the beldame, who forthwith raises 
her prices fifty per cent, without being detected by tiie 

Ked bajidannas and yellow kerchiefs are everywhere ; 
so is the Italian tongue, infinitely sweeter than the iiai-eli 
gutturals of the Enssian Jew around the corner. So are 
the " ristorantes " of innumerable Pasquales ; half of the 
people in " the Bond " are christened Pasquale, or get the 
name in some other way. "When the police do not know 
tlig name of an escaped murderer, they- guess at Pasquale 
and send the name out on alarm ; in nine cases ont of ten 
it fits. So are the " banks " that hang out their shingle 



ae tempting bait on every hand. There are half a dozen 
in the single bloct, steamship agencies, employment of- 
fices, and savings-banks, all in one. So aie the toddling 
youngsters, bow-legged half of them, and scare no end of 
mothers, present and prospective, some of them scarce yet 
in their teens. Those who are not in the street are hang- 
ing lialf way out of tlie windows, shouting at some one 
below. All "the Bend" must be, if not altogether, at 
least half out of doors when the snn shines. 

In the street, where the city wields the broom, there is 
at least an effort at cleaning up. There has to be, or it 
wonld be swamped in filth ovei'rnnning from the courts 
and alleys where the rag-pickers live. It requires more 
than ordinaiy courage to explore these on a hot day. The 
undertaker has to do it then, the police always. Right 
here, in this tenement on the east side of the street, they 
found little Antonia Candia, victim of fiendish cruelty, 
" covered," says the account found in the records of the 
Society for tlie Prevention of Cruelty to Children, "with 
sores, and her hair matted with dried blood." Abuse is 
the normal condition of " the Bend," mui-der its everyday 
crop, with the tenants not always the criminals. In this 
block between Bayard, Park, Mulberry, and Baxter Streets, 
" the Bend " proper, the late Tenement House Commission 
counted 155 deaths of children * in a specimen year (1882). 
Their per centage of the total mortality in the block was 
68.28, while for the whole city the proportion was only 
46.20. The infant mortality in any city or place as com- 
pared with the whole number of deaths is justly consid- 
ered a good barometer of its general sanitary condition. 

■ The term cliild menns in the mortality tahlea a person under five 
yeaTB of age. Children five years old and over figure in the tables as 

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Here, in tltis tenement, Xo, 59^, next to Bandits' Itooet, 
fourteen persons died tliat year, and eleven of them were 
children ; in No. 61 eleven, and eight of them not yet five 
years old. According to the records in the Bureau of 
Vital Statistics only thirty-nine people lived in No. 59J in 
the year 18SS, nine of them little children. Tiiero wem 
five baby funerals in that house the same year. Out of 
the alley itself, No. 59, nine dead were carried iu 1888, 
tive in baby cofiBiis. Here is tho recoi-d of the year for 
the whole block, as furnished by the Kegistrar of Vital 
Statistics, Br. Roger S. Tracy ; 

Deiillis und Zkaih-raies in 1888 in Baxtef and MuS^m-ry SlreeU, between 
Park and Bayived Slreetg. 





















1 ^ 

t Stiwt 





1 -K 




a. -117 



' 3S.75 

The general death-rate for the whole citv that year was 

These fignres speak for themselves, when it is sliown 
that in the model tenement across the way at Nos. IS 
and 50, where the same class of people live in greater 
swarms (161, according to the record), but under good 
management, and in decent quarters, the hearse called 
that year only twice, once for a baby. The agent of the 
Christian people who built that tenement will tell yon 
that Italians are good tenants, while the owner of the 

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alley will oppose every order to pnt Iiis property in repair 
with the claim that they are the worst of a bad lot. 
Both are right, from their different stand-points. It is 
the stand-point that makes the difference— and the tenant. 

What if I were to tell yon that this alley, and more 
tenement property in " the Eend," all of it notorious for 
years as the vilest and worst to be found anyW'here, stood 
associated on tlie tax-books all tlu'oiigh the long struggle to 
make its owners responsible, which has at last resnlted 
in a qnaliiied victory for the law, with the name of an 
honored family, one of the " oldest and test," rich in 
possessions and in influence, and high in the councils of 
the city's government? It wonid be but the plain trnth. 
Nor would it be the only instance by veiy many that 
stand recorded on the Health Department's books of a 
kind that has come near to making the name of landlord 
as odious in New York as it lias become in Ireiand. 

Bottle Alley is around the corner in Baxter Street ; but 
it is a fair specimen of its kind, wherever found. Look 
into any of these houses, everywhere the same piles of 
rags, of malodorous bones and musty paper, all of which 
the sanitary police flatter themselves they have banished 
to the dumps and the warehouses. Here is a " flat " of 
"parlor" and two pitch-dark coops called bedrooms. 
Truly, the bed is all there is room for. The family tea- 
kettle is on the stove, doing duty for the time being as a 
wash-boiler. By night it will have returned to its propel- 
use again, a practical illustration of how povei-ty in " the 
Bend" makes both ends meet. One, two, three beds ai'e 
there, if the old boxes and heaps of foul straw can be 
called by that name ; a broken stove with crazy pipe from 
which the smoke leaks at every joint, a table of rough 
boards propped up on boxes, piles of rubbish in the corner. 

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The closeness and emell are appalling. How many people 
sleep here? The woman with the red bandanna shakes 
her head sullenly, but the bare-legged girl with the bright 
face counts on her fiugcj-s — five, six ! 

" Six, sir ! " Six grown people and five children, 

" Only five," she says with a smile, swatliing the little 
one on her lap in its cruel bandage. There is another in 
the cradle — actually a cradle. And how much the rent ? 

Nine and a half, and " please, sir ! he won't pnt the 
paper on." 

" He " is the landlord. The " paper "hangs in musty 
shreds on the wall. 

Well do I recollect the visit of a health inspector to one 
of these tenements on a July day when the thermometer 
ontside was climbing high in the nineties ; bnt inside, in 
that awful room, with half a dozen persons washing, cook- 
ing, and sorting rags, lay the dying baby alongside the 
stove, where the doctor's thermometer ran up to 115° 1 
Peiishing for the want of a breath of fresh air in this city 
of untold charities! Did not the manager of the Fresh 
Air Fund write to the pastor of an Italian Church only 
last year * that " no one asked for Italian children," and 
hence he could not send any to the country ? 

Half a dozen blocks up Mulberry Street there is a rag- 
picker's settlement, a sort of overflow from "the Bend," 
that exists to-day in all its pristine nastiness. Something 
like forty families are packed into five old two-story and 
attic houses that were built to hold five, and out in tiie 
yards additional crowds are, or were until very recently, 
accommodated in sheds bnilt of all sorts of old boards and 
used as drying racks for the Italian tenants' "stock." I 
found them empty when I visited the settlement while 

• Sea City Mission Report, February, 18B0, page 77. 

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writing this. Tlie last two tenants had just left. Their 
fato was fharact eristic. The "old man," wjio lived in 
the corner coop, with barely room to crouch beside the 

stove — there would not have been room for him to sleep 
had not age crooked bis frame to- fit his house— bad been 
talicn to the "crazj Iio\i6c," and the woman who was hie 


ibor and had lived in her shed for years had eimply 
disappeared. Theagentand tlie other tenants "guessed," 
doubtless correctly, that she might he found on the "isl- 
and," but she was decrepit anyhow from rheumatism, and 
" not much good," and )io one took the trouble to inquire 
for her. They had all they could do attending to their 
own business and raising the rent. No wonder ; I found 
that for one front room and two " bedrooms " in the 
shameful old wrecks of buildings the tenant was paying 
$10 a month, for the back-room and one bedroom $9, 
and for the attic rooms, according to size, from $3.75 to 

Tliere is a standing quarrel between the professional — I 
mean now the official — sanitarian and the nnsalai-ied agi- 
tator for sanitary I'cform over the question of overcrowd- 
ed tenements. The one puts the number a little vaguely 
at four or five hundred, while the other asserts that there 
are thirty-two thousand, the whole number of houses 
classed as tenements at the census of two years ago, taking 
no account of the better kind of flats. It depends on the 
angle from which one sees it which is right. At best the 
term overcrowding is a I'elative one, and the scale of offi- 
cial measurement conveniently sliding. Under the press- 
ure of the Italian influx the standard of breathing space 
required for an adult by the health officers has been cut 
down from six to four hundred cubic feet. The "needs 
of the situation " is their plea, and no more perfect argu- 
ment could be advanced for the reformer's position. 

It is in " the Bend " the sanitary policeman locates the 
bulk of his four hundred, and the sanitary reformer gives 
up the task in despair. Of its vast Jiomeless crowds the 
census takes no account. It is their instinct to shun the 
light, and they cannot be corralled in one place long 



eiiougli to be counted. But tiie houses can, and the last 
count showed that in " the Bend " district, between Broad- 
way and the Bowery and Canal and Chatham Streets, in 
a total of four thousand three hundred and sixty-seven 
'"apartments" only nine were for the moment vacant, 
while in the old " Africa," west of Broadway, that leceivcs 
the overflow from Mulberry Street and is I'apidly chang- 
ing its character, the notice " standing room only " is nji. 
^ot a single vacant room was found there. Xearly a hun- 
dred and lifty " lodgers " were driven out of two adjoining 
Mulberry Street tenements, one of them aptiy named " the 
House of Blazes," during that census. What Kqnalor and 
degradation inhabit these dens the health officers know. 
Through the long summer days their carts patrol "the 
Bend," scattering disinfectants in streets and lanes, i]i 
sinks and cellai's, and hidden liovels wliere the tramp bur- 
rows. From midnight till far into the small hours of 
the morning the policeman's thundering I'ap on closed 
doors is heard, with his stern command, "^jh'i^ot*' / " 
on his rounds gathering evidence of illegal overcrowding. 
The doors are opened imwilliiigly enough — but the order 
means business, and the tenant knows it even if he mider- 
stands no word of English — upon snch scenes as the one 
presented in the picture. It was photographed by flash- 
light oil just such a visit. In a room not thirteen feet 
either way slept twelve men and women, two or three 
in bunks set in a sort of alcove, the rest on tlie floor, 
A kerosene lamp burned dimly in the fearful atmos- 
phere, probably to guide other and later arrivals to their 
" beds," for it was only just past midnight. A baby's fret- 
ful wail came from an adjoining hall-room, where, in the 
semi-darkness, three recumbent figures could be made 
out. The " apartment " was one of three in two adjoining 

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buildings we had found, within half an hour, similarly 
crowded. Most of the men were lodgers, who slept there 
for five cents a spot. 

Another room ou the top floor, that had been examined 
a few nights before, was comparatively empty. There 
were only four persons in it, two jiien, an old woman, and 
a young girl. The landlord opened tlie door with alacri- 
ty, and exhibited w-ith a proud sweep of his hand the sac- 
nfice he had made of his personal interests to satisfy the 
law. Our visit had been anticipated. The policeman's 
back was probably no sooner turned than the room was re- 
opened for business. 

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■jVyflDNIGHT roll-eall was over in the Elizabeth Street 
-"-'- police-station, but the reserves were held under 
order's. A raid was on foot, but whether on the Chinese 
fan-tan games, on the opium joints of Mott and Pell 
Streets, or on dens of even worse character, was a matter 
of guess-work in the men's room, Wiien the last patrol- 
man had come in from his beat, all doubt was dispelled by 
the brief order "To t!ie Bend!" The stale-beer dives 
were the object of tlie I'aid. The policemen buckled their 
belts tighter, and with expressive grunts of disgust took up 
tlieip march toward Muibeny Sti-eet. Past the heathen 
temples of Mott Street— there was some fun to be gotten 
out of a raid there — tliey trooped, into " the Bend," send- 
ing here and there a belated tramp scurrying in fright tow- 
ard healthier quartei-s, and halted at the mouth of one of 
the hidden alleys. Squads were told off and sent to make a 
simultaneous descent on all the known tramps' buiTows in 
the block. Led by the sergeant, ours-^I went along as a ■ 
kind of war correspondent — groped its way in single file 
through the narrow rift between slimy walls to the tene- 
ments in the rear. Twice during our trip we stumbled over 
tramps, both women, asleep in the passage. They wei'e 
quietly passed to the rear, receiving sundry prods and 
punches on the trip, and headed for the station in the grip 
of a policeman as a sort of advance guard of the coming 

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army. After what seemed half a mile of gi-oping in the 
dark we emerged finally into the alley proper, where light 
escaping through the cracks of closed slmttersou both sides 
enabled us to iiLike out the contour of tiiree rickety frame 
tenements. Snatclies of ribald songs and peals of coarse 
laughter reached us from now this, now that of the un- 
seen bun'ows. 

" School is in," said the Sergeant drily as we stumbled 
down the worn steps of the next cellar-way. A kick of 
his boot-heel sent the door flying into the room. 

A room perhaps a dozen feet square, witii walls and 
ceiling that might once have been clean — assuredly the 
floor had not in the memory of man, if indeed there was 
other floor than hard-trodden mud — but were now covered 
with a brown crust that, touched with the end of a club, 
came off in shuddering sliowers of crawling bugs, reveal- 
ing the blacker filth beneath. Grouped about a beer-keg 
that was propped on the wreck of a broken chair, a foul 
and I'agged host of men and women, on boxes, benches, 
and stools. Tomato-cans filled at the keg were passed 
from hand to hand. In the centre of the group a sallow, 
wrinkled hag, evidently the ruler of the feast, dealt out 
tlie hideous stuff. A pile of copper coins rattled in her 
apron, the very pennies received with sucli showers of 
blessings upon the giver that afternoon; the faces of 
some of the women were familiar enough from the streets 
as tliose of beggars forever whining for a penny, " to keep 
a family from starving," Their whine and boisterous 
hilarity wei'o alike hushed now. In sullen, cowed submis- 
sion they sat, evidently knowing what to expect. At the 
first glimpse of the uniform in the open door some in 
the group, customers with a record probably, had turned 
their lieads away to avoid the searching glance of the 

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officer ; while a few, less used to such scenes, stared 

' A single stride took the sergeant into the middle of the 
room, and with a swinging blow of his club he knocked the 
faucet out of the keg and the half-filled can from the 
boss hag's hand. As the contents of both splashed upon 
the floor, half a dozen o£ the group made a sudden dash, 
and with shoulders humped above their heads to shield 
their skulls against the dreaded locust broke for the door. 
Tiiey had not counted upon the policemen outside. There 
was a brief struggle, two or three heavy thumps, and tlie 
runaways were brought hack to where their comrades 
crouched in dogged silence. 

"Thirteen !" called the sergeant, completing his survey. 
" Take tliem out. ' Eevolvers ' all but one. Good for six 
months on the island, the whole lot." The exception was 
a young irian not much if any over twenty, with a hard 
jook of dissipation on his face. He seemed less niicou- 
cerned than the rest, but tried hard to make up for it by 
putting on the boldest air he could. " Come down early," 
commented the officer, shoving him along with his stick. 
" There is need of it. They don't last long at this. That 
stuff is brewed to kill at long range." 

At the head of the cellai'-stepa we encountered a simi- 
lar procession from farther back in the alley, where still 
another was foi'ming to take up its marcli to the station. 
Out in the street was heard the tramp of the hosts already 
pursuing that well-trodden path, as with a fresh comple- 
ment of men we entered the next stale-beer alley. There 
were four dives in one cellar here. The filth and the stench 
were utterly unbearable ; even the sergeant turned his 
back and fled after scattering the crowd with his club and 
starting them toward the door. The very dog in the alley 



[)referred the cold Hags for a bertli to the stifling cellar. 
We found it lyiug ontside. Seventy-five tramps, Jiialo 
and fomale, were arrested in the four email rooms. In 
one of them, where the air seemed thick enough to cut 
with a knife, we found a woman, a mother with a new-born 
babe on a heap of dirty straw. She was asleep and was 
left until an ambulance could be called to take her to the 

Eeturning to the station with this batdi, we found evejy 
window in the building thrown open to the cold October 
wind, and the men from the sergeant down smoking tlie 
strongest cigars that could be obtained by way of disen- 
fecting the place. Two hundred and seventy-five tramps 
had been jammed into the cells to be arraigned next morn- 
ing in^the police court on the charge of vagrancy, with the 
certain prospect of si.x months " on the Island." Of the 
sentence at least they were sure. As to the length of the 
men's stay the experienced official at the desk was scepti- 
cal, it being then within a month of an important elec- 
tion. If tramps have nothing else to call their own they 
have votes, and votes that are for sale cheap for cash. 
About election time this gives them a " pull," at least by 
praxy. The sergeant observed, as if it were the most 
natural thing in the world, that he had more than once 
seen the same tramp sent to Blackwell's Island twice in 
twenty-four hours for six months at a time. 

As a thief never owns to his calling, however devoid of 
moi-al scruples, preferring to style himself a speculator, so 
this real home-pi-odnct of the shuns, the stale-beer dive, 
is known about " the Bend " by the more dignified name 
of the two-cent I'estaurant. Usually, as in this instance, 
it is in some cellar giving on a back alley. Doctored, un- 
licensed beer is its chief ware. Sometimes a cup of "cof- 

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fee " and a stale roll may be bad for two cents. The men 
pay tbe score. To tlie women — unutterable horror of 
the suggestion— -the place is free. The beer is collected 
from the kegs put on the sidewalk by the saloon-keeper to 
await the brewer's eart, and is touched up with drugs to 
put a froth on it. The privilege to sit all night on a 
chair, or sleep on a table, or in a barrel, goes with each 
round of drinks. Generally an Italian, sometimes a ne- 
gro, occasionally a woman, "runs" the dive. Their cus- 
tomers, alike homeless and hopeless in their utter wretch- 
edness, are tbe professional tramps, and these only. The 
meanest thief is infinitely above the etale-beer level. Once 
upon that plane there is no escape. To sink below it is 
impossible ; no one ever rose from it. One night spent 
in a stale-beer dive is like the traditional putting on of 
tlie uniform of the caste, the discarded rags of an old 
tramp. That stile once crossed, the lane has no longer 
a turn ; and contrary to the proverb, it is usually not long 

"With the gravitation of the Italian ti-amp landlord to- 
ward the old stronghold of the African on tlie West Side, 
a share of the stale-beer traffic has left " tlie Bend ; '' but 
its headquarters will always remain there, the real Lome of 
trampdoni, just as ^Fourteenth Street is its limit. No real 
tramp crosses that frontier after nightfall and in the day- 
time only to beg. Repulsive as the business is, its profits 
to the Italian dive-keeper are considerable ; in fact, barring 
a slight outlay in the ingredients that serve to give " life " 
to the beer-dregs, it is all pi-ofit. The " banker " who 
cnrses the Italian colony does not despise taking a band 
in it, and such a thing as a stale-beer trust on a Mulberry 
Street scale may yet be among the possibilities. One of 
these banliers, who was once known to the police as the 

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keeper of one notorious stale-beer dive and the active 
backer of others, is to-day an extensive manufaetiirer of 
macaroni, the owner of several big tenements and other 
real estate ; and the capital, it is said, has all come out of 
his old business. Very likely it is true. 

On hot summer nights it is no rare experience when 
exploring the worst of the tenements in "the Bend" to find 
the hallways occupied by rows of "sitters," tramps whom 
laziness or hard luck has prevented from earning enough 
by tlieir day's " labor " to pay the admission fee to a stale- 
beer dive, and who have their reasons for declining the 
hospitality of the police station lodging-rooms. Huddled 
together in loathsome fiies, they squat there over night, or 
until an inquisitive policeman breaks up the congregation 
with his clab, which in Mulberry Street has always free 
swing. At that season the woman tramp predominates. 
The men, some of them at least, take to the I'ailroad 
track and to camping out when the nights grow warm, re- 
turning in the fall to prey on the city and to recruit 
their ranks from the lazy, the shiftless, and the unfortu- 
nate. Like a foul loadstone, "the Bend" attracts and 
brings them back, no matter how far tiiey have wandered. 
For next to idleness the tramp loves rum ; next to rnm 
stale beer, its eqnivalerit of the gutter. And the first and 
last go best togetiier. 

As " sitters " they occasionally find a job in ^he saloons 
ftbout Chatham and Pearl Streets on cold winter nights, 
when the hallway is not practicable, that enables them to 
pick up a charity drink now and then and a bite of an 
infrequent sandwich. The barkeeper permits them to sit 
about the stove and by shivering invite the sympathy of 
transient customers. The dodge works well, especially 
about Christmas and election time, and the sitters are able 

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to keep comfortably filled up to the advantage of their 
iiost. But to look tlioronghly miserable they must keep 
awake. A tramp placidly dozing at the iire would not be 
an object of sympathy. To make sure that they do keep 
awake, the wily bartender makes them eit constantly swing- 
ing one foot like the pendulum of a clock. When it 
fltops the slothful "sitter" is roused with a kick and "fired 
out." It is said by those who profess to know that Jiabit 
has come to the rescue of oversleepy tramps and that the 
old rounders can swing hand or foot in their bleep withont 
betraying themselves. In some saloons "sitters" are let 
iu at these eeasons in fresh batches every lionr. 

On one of my visits to " the Bend " I came acj-oss a pai- 
ticularly ragged and disreputable tramp, who sat smoking 
his pipe on the rung of a ladder with such evident philo- 
sophic contentment in tlie busy labor of a score of rag- 
pickers all about him, that I bade him sit for a picture, 
offering liim ten cents for the job. He accepted the offer 
with hardly a nod, and sat patiently watching me from 
his perch until I got ready for work. Then lie took the 
pipe out of his mouth and put it in his pocket, calmly de- 
claring that it was not included in the contract, and tliat 
it was worth aqnarter to have it go in tlie picture. The 
pipe, by the way, was of clay, and of the two-for-a-ceut 
kind. But I had to give in. The man, scarce ten sec- 
onds employed at honest labor, even at sitting down, at 
which he was an undoubted expert, had gone on sti-ike. 
He knew his rights and the value of " work," and was 
not to be cheated out of either. 

Whence these tramps, and why the tramping ? are 
questions oftener asked than answered. Ill-applied char- 
ity and idleness answer the first query. They are the 
whence, and to a large extent the why also. Once start- 




ed on tiie career of a tramp, the man keeps to it because 
it is the laziest. Tramps and tonglis profess the same 
doctrine, that the world owes them a living, but from 
atand-points that tend in different directions. The tough 
does not become a tramp, save in rare instances, when old 
and broken down. Even then usually he is otherwise 
disposed of. The devil has various ways of taking care 
of his own. Nor is the tramps' army recruited fi'om 
any certain class. All occupations and most grades of 
society yield to it their contingent of idleness. Occasion- 
ally, from one cause or anotJier, a recruit of a better stamp 
is forced into the ranks ; but the first acceptance of alms 
puts a brand on the able-bodied man which his moral nat- 
ure rarely holds out to efface. He seldom recovers his 
lost caste. The evolution is gradual, keeping step with 
the increasing shabbiness of his clothes and correspond- 
ing loss of self-respect, until he reaches the bottom in " the 

Of the tough the tramp doctrine that the world owes 
him a living makes a thief ; of the tramp a coward. 
Numbers only make him bold unless he has to do with 
defenceless women. In the city the policemen keep him 
straiglit enough. The women rob an occasional clothes- 
line when no one is looking, or steal the pail and scrubbing- 
brnsh with which they are set to clean np in the station- 
house lodging-rooms after their night's sleep. At the 
police station the roads of the tramp and the tough again 
converge. In mid-winter, on the coldest nights, the sani- 
tary police corral the tramps here and in their lodging- 
honses and vaccinate them, despite their struggles and 
many oaths that they have recently been "scraped." 
The station-house is the sieve that sifts out the chaff 
from the wheat, if there be any wheat there. A man 



goes from his fivst night's sleep on the hard slab of a po- 
lice station lodging-rooni to a deck-hand's berth on an out- 
going steamer, to the recruiting office, to any work that 
is honest, or he goes " to the devil or the dives, same 
tiling,'' says mj friend, the Sergeant, who knows. 

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WHEN it comes to tlie question o£ nnmbers with tliis 
tramps' army, another factor of serious portent 
has to be taken into aceonnt : tlie cheap lodging-bouses. In 
tlie caravanseries tliat line Chatliaui Street and the Bow- 
ery, harboring nigljtly a population as large as that of 
many a thriving town, a home-made article of tramp and 
thief is turned out that is attracting the increasing atten- 
tion o£ the police, and offers a field for the missionary's 
labors beside which most others seem of slight account. 
Within a year they have been stamped as nurseries of 
crime by the chief of the Secret Police,* the sort of crime 
that feeds especially on idleness and lies ready to the liand 
of fatal opportunity. In the same strain one of the jus- 
tices on the police court i>encli sums up his long experi- 
ence as a committing magistrate : " The ten-eent lodging- 
houses more than counterbalance the good done by the 
free reading-room, lectures, and all other agencies of ]-e- 
form. Such lodging-houses have caused more destitution, 
more beggary and crime than any other agency I know 
of." A very slight acquaintance vi-ith the subject is suffi- 
cient to convince the observer that neither authority over- 
states the fact. The two officials had reference, however, 

* Inapeotor Byrnes on Lodging-housea, iu the NocUi Ameriottn Ke- 
view, September. 1889. 

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to two different grades of lodging-houses. The cost of a 
night's lodging makes the difference. There is a wider 
gap between the " hotel " — they are ali liotels — that 
charges a quarter and the one that furniehee a bed for a 
dime than between the bridal snite and the every-day hall 
bedroom of the ordinary hostelry. 

The metropolis is to lots of people like a lighted can- 
dle to the moth. It attracts them in swarms that come 
year after year with the vague idea that they can get along 
here if anywhere; that sometliing is bound to turn up 
among so many. Nearly all are young men, unsettled in 
life, many — most of them, perhaps — fresh from good 
homes, beyond a doubt with honest hopes of getting a 
start in the city and making a way for themselves. Few 
of them have much money to waste while looking around, 
and the cheapness of the lodging offered is an object. 
Fewer still know anything about the city and its pitfalls. 
They have come in search of crowds, of " life," and they 
gravitate naturally to the Bowery, the great democratic 
highway of the city, where the twenty-ffve-cent lodging- 
houses take them in. In the alleged reading-rooms of 
these great barracks, that often have accommodations, such 
as they are, for two, three, and even four hundred guests, 
they encounter three distinct classes of associates : the 
great mass adventurers like themselves, waiting there for 
something to turn np ; a much smaller class of respectable 
clerks or mechanics, who, too poor or too lonely to have a 
home of their own, live this way from year to year ; and 
lastly the thief in search of recruits for his trade. The 
sights the young stranger sees and the company he keeps 
in the Bowery are not of a kind to strengthen any moral 
principle he may have brought away from home, and by 
the time'his money is gone, with no work yet in sight, and 



he goes down a step, a long step, to tlie fifteen-cent lodg- 
ing-house, he is ready for the tempter whom he finds 
waiting for him there, reinforced hy tlie contingent of ex- 
convicts returning from the prisons after having seiTed 
out their sentences for robbery or theft. Then it is that 
the something he has been waiting for tunis np. Tlie po- 
lice retiirns have the record of it. " In nine cases out of 
ten," says Inspector Byrnes, " he turns out a thief, or a 
burglar, if, indeed, he does not sooner or later become a 
murderer." As a matter of fact, some of the most atro- 
cious of I'eeent murders have been the result of schemes 
of robbery batched in these houses, and so frequent and 
bold have become the depredations of the lodging-liouse 
thieves, that the authorities have been compelled to make 
a public demand for more effective laws that shall make 
them subject at all times to police regulation. 

Inspector Byrnes observes that in the last two or three 
years at least four hundred young men have been arrested 
for petty crimes that originated in the lodging-houses, 
and that in many cases it was their first step in crime. 
He adds his testimony to the notorious fact that three- 
fourths of the young men called on to plead to generally 
petty offences in the courts are under twenty years of age, 
poorly clad, and without means. The bearing of the I'e- 
mark is obvious. One of tlie, to the police, well-known 
thieves who lived, when out of jail, at the Windsor, a 
well-known lodging-house in the Bowery, went to Johns- 
town after the flood and was shot and killed there while 
robbing the dead. 

An idea of just how this particular sehenie of corrup- 
tion works, with an extra touch of infamy thrown in, may 
be gathered from the story of David Smith, the "New 
York Fagin," who was convicted and sent to prison last 

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year tiiroagh the inBtrumentality of the Society for the 
Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Here is the account 
from the Society's last report : 

" Tlie boy, Edward Mulhearn, fourteen years old, had 
run away f i-om his home in Jersey City, thinking he might 
find work and friends in New York. He may have been 
a trifle wild. He met Smith on tlie Bowery and recog- 
nized iiim as an acquaintance. When Smith offered him 
a supper and bed he was only too glad to accept. Smith 
led the boy to a vile lodging-house on tlie Bowery, where 
he introdnced him to his ' pals ' and swore he would 
make a man of him before he was a week older. Next 
day he took tlie unsuspeeting Edward alt over the Bowei-y 
and Grand Street, showed him the sights and drew his at- 
tention to the careless way the ladies carried tlieir bags 
and purses and the easy thing it was to get them. He 
induced Edward to try his hand. Edward tried and won. 
He was richer by three dollars ! It did seem easy, ' Of 
course it is,' said his companion. From that time Smith 
took the boy on a number of thieving raids, but he never 
seemed to become adept enongh to be trusted out of range 
of tlie ' Eagin's ' watchful eye. Wiien he went out alone 
he generally returned empty-handed. This did not suit 
Smith, It was then he conceived the idea of turning this 
little inferior thief into a superior beggar. He took the 
boy into his room and burned his arms with a hot iron. 
Tiie boy screamed and entreated in vain. The merciless 
wretch pi'essed the iron deep into the tender flesh, and 
afterward applied acid to the raw wound. 

" Thus prepai'cd, with his arm inflamed, swollen, and 
painful, Edward was sent out every day by this fiend, 
who never let him out of his sight, and threatened to 
bum his arm off if he did not beg money enough. He 

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wae inetrueted to tell people the wound had been caused 
hy acid falling upon his arm at the works. Edward was 
now too inucfi under the maii'e influence to resist or dis- 
obey him. He begged hard and handed Smith the pen- 
nies faithfully. He received in return bad food an<l 
worse treatment." 

The reckoning came when the wretch encountered tlie 
boy's father, in search of his child, in the Bowery, and fell 
under suspicion of knowing more than lie pretended of 
the lad's whereabouts. He was found in his den with a 
half dozen of his ehums revelling on the proceeds of the 
boy's begging for the day. 

Tlie twenty-five cent lodging-house keeps up tiie pre- 
tence of a bedroom, though the head-high partition en- 
closing a space just large enough to hold a cot and a chair 
and allow the man room to pull off liis clothes is the shal- 
lowest of all pretences. The iifteen-eent bed stands boldly 
forth without screen in a room full of bunks with sheets 
as yellow and blankets as foul. At the ten-cent level the 
locker for the sleeper's clothes disappears. There is no 
longer need of it. The tramp limit is reached, and tliere 
is nothing to lock up save, on general principles, the 
lodger. Usually the ten- and seven-cent lodgings are dif- 
ferent grades of the same abomination. Some sort of an 
apolc^y for a bed, with mattress and blanket, represents 
the aristocratic purchase of the tramp who, by a lucky 
stroke of beggary, has exchanged the chance of an empty 
box or ash-barrel for shelter on the quality floor of one of 
these " hotels." A strip of canvas, strung between rough 
timbers, without covering of any kind, does for the 
couch of the seven-cent lodger who prefers the question- 
able comfort of a red-hot stove close to his elbow to the 
revelry of the stale-beer dive. It is not the most secure 

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pei'ch in tlie world. Uneasy sleepers roll off at intervale, 
but they have not far to fall to the next tier of bunks, 
and the commotion that ensues is speedily quieted by the 
boss and his dub. On cold winter nights, when every 

bunk had its tenant, I have stood in such a lodging-room 
more than once, and listening to the snoring of the 
sleepers like the regular strokes of an engine, and the 
slow creaking of the beams under their restless weight, 
imagined myself on shipboard and experienced the very 

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i-eal nausea of sea-sickness. The one thing that did not 
favor the deception was the air ; its character couid not 
be mistaken. 

Tiie proprietor of one of these seven-cent houses was 
known to nie as a man of reputed wealth and respecta- 
bility. He "ran" three such establishments and made, 
it was said, $8,000 a year clear profit on his investment. 
He lived in a handsome house quite near to the stylish 
pi'ecincts of Murray Hill, where the nature of his occupa- 
tion was not suspected. A notice that was posted on the 
wall of the lodgers' room snggested at least an efEort to 
maintain hie up-town standing in the alums. It read : 
" No swearing or loud talking after nine o'clock." Before 
nine no exceptions were taken to the natural vulgarity of 
the place ; but that was the limit. 

Tiiere are no licensed lodging-houses known to me 
which chaise less than seven cents for even such a bed as 
this canvas strip, though there are nnlicensed ones enough 
where one may sleep on the floor for five cents a spot, or 
squat ill a sheltered hallway for thi'ee. The police station 
lodging-house, where the soft side of a plank is the regu- 
lation couch, is next in order. Tlie manner in which this 
police bed is " made up " is interesting in its simplicity. 
The loose planks that make the platform are simply turned 
over, and the job is done, with an occasional coat of white- 
wash thrown in to sweeten things. I know of only one 
easier way, but, so far as I am informed, it has never 
been introduced in this country. It used to be practised, 
if report spoke truly, in certain old-country towns. The 
" bed " was represented by clothes-lines stretched across 
the room upon which the sleepers hung by the arm-pits 
for a penny a night. In the morning the boss woke them 
up by simply untying the line at one end and letting it go 

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with its load ; a labor-saving device certaiuly, and highly 
successful Iq attaining the desired end. 

According to the police figures, 4,974,025 separate lodg- 
ings were furnished last year by these dormitories, be- 
tween two and three hundred in number, and, adding the 
147,634 lodgings furnished by the station-houses, the total 
of the homeless army was 5,121,659, an average of over 
fourteen thousand homeless men * for every night in the 
year ! The health officers, professional optimists always in 
matters that trench upon their official jurisdiction, insist 
that the number is not quite so large as here given. But, 
apart from any slight discrepancy in the figures, the more 
important fact remains that last year's record of lodgers 
is an ail round increase over the previous year's of over 
tliree hundred thousand, and that this has been the ratio 
of growth of the business during the last three years, the 
period of which Inspector Byrnes complains as turning 
out so many young criminals with the lodging-house stamp 
upon them. More than half of the lodging-houses are 
in the Bowery district, that is to say, the Fourth, Sixth, 
and Tenth "Wards, and they harbor nearly three-fourths of 
their crowds. The calculation that more than nine thou- 
sand homeless young men lodge nightly along Chatham 
Street and the Bowery, between the City Hail and the 
Cooper Union, is probably not far out of the way. The 
City Missionary finds them there far less frequently than 
the thief in need of helpers. Appropriately enough, 
nearly one-fifth of all the pawn-shops in tlie city and one- 
sixth of all the saloons are located here, while twenty- 
seven per cent, of all the ari-ests on the police books have 
been credited to the district for the last two years. 

About election time, especially in Presidential elec- 
• Dedaot 89,111 women lodgers in the police statlona. 

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tions, the lodging-houses come onfc strong on the side of 
the political boss who has the biggest " barrel." The vic- 
tory in political contests, in the three wards I have men- 
tioned of all others, is distinctly to the general with the 
strongest battalions, and the lodging-houses are his favor- 
ite reci'uiting ground. The colonization of voters is an 
evil of the first magnitude, none the less because both 
parties smirch their hands with it, and for tliat reason 
next to hopeless. Honors are easy, wiiere the two " ma- 
chines," intrenched in their strongholds, outbid each other 
across the Bowery in open rivalry as to who shall commit 
the most flagrant frauds at the polls, Semi-occasionally 
a dianipion offender is cauglit and punislied, as was, not 
long ago, the proprietor of one of tlie biggest Bowery 
lodging-houses. But such scenes are largely spectacular, 
if not prompted by some hidden motive of revenge that 
survives from the contest. Beyond a doubt Inspector 
Byrnes speaks by the card when he observes that " usually 
this work is done in the interest of some local political 
boss, who stands by the owner of the house, in case the 
latter gets into trouble." For standing by, read twisting 
the machinery of outraged justice so that its hand shall 
fall not too heavily upon the culprit, or miss him alto- 
gether. One of the houses that acliieved profitable noto- 
I'iety in tliis way in many successive elections, a notorions 
tramps' resort in Houston Street, was lately given up, and 
has most appropriately been turned into a bar-factory, 
thus still contributing, though in a changed form, to the 
success of " the cause." It must be admitted that the 
black tramp who herds in the West Side " hotels " is more 
discriminating in this matter of electioneering than his 
white brother. He at least exhibits some real loyalty in 
invariably selling liis vote to the Republican bidder for a 

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dollar, wliile he charges the Democratic boss a dollar and 
a half. In view of the well-known facts, there is a good 
deal of force in the remark made by a friend of ballot re- 
form during tlie recent struggle over tliat hotly contested 
issue, that real ballot reform will do more to knock out 
cheap lodging-liouses than ail the regulations of police and 
health oflicers together. 

The expenment made by a well-known stove manufact- 
urer a winter or two ago in the way of charity might 
have thrown much desired light on the question of the 
number of tramps in the city, could it have been carried 
to a successful end. lie opened a sort of breakfast shop 
for the idle and unemployed in the region of Washington 
Square, offering to all who had no money a cup of coffee 
and a roll for nothing. The first morning he bad a'dozen 
customers, tlie next about two Imndred. The number 
kept growing until one morning, at the end of two weeks, 
found by actual count 3,014 shivering creatures in line 
waiting their turn for a seat at his tables. The shop was 
closed tliat day. It was one of the rare instances of too 
great a rush of custom wrecking a promising business, and 
the great problem remained unsolved. 

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BETWEEN the tabernaules of Je-wry and the shrines 
of the Bend, Joss has cheekily planted his pagan 
worship of idols, chief among which are the celestial 
worshipper's own gain and lusts. Whatever may be said 
about tlie Chinaman being a thousand years beliind the 
age on ]iis own slioree, here he is distinctly abreast of it in 
his successful scljeming to " make it pay." It is doubt- 
ful if there is anything he does not turn to a paying ac- 
count, from his religion down, or up, as one prefers. At 
the risk of distressing some well-meaning, but, I fear, too 
trustful people, I state it in advance as my opinion, based 
on the steady observation of years, that all attempts to 
make an effective Christian of John Chinaman will re- 
main abortive in this generation ; of tlie next I have, if 
anything, less hope. Ages of senseless idolatry, a mere 
grub-worship, have left him without the essential quali- 
ties for appreciating the gentle teachings of a faitli whose 
motive and unselfish spirit are alike beyond his grasp, 
lie lacks the handle of a strong faith in something, any- 
thing, however wrong, to catch him by. There is nothing 
strong about him, except liis passions when aroused. I 
am convinced that he adopts Christianity, when he adopts 
it at all, as he puts on American clothes, with what the 
politicians would call an ultei-ior motive, some sort of gain 
in the near prospect — washing,>a Christian wife perhaps, 

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anything he happens to rate for the moment above his 
cheriehed pigtail. It may be that I judge him too harshly. 
Exceptions may be found. Indeed, for the credit of the 
race, I hope there are such. But I am bound to say my 
hope is not backed by lively faith. 

Chinatown as a spectacle is disappointing. Next-door 
neighbor to the Bend, it has little of its outdoor stir and 
life, none of its gayly-colored rags or picturesque filth and 
poverty. Mott Street is clean to distraction : the laundry 
stamp is on it, though the houses are chiefly of the con- 
ventional tenement-house type, with nothing to rescue 
them from the everyday dismal dreariness of their kind 
save here and there a splash of dull red or yellow, a sign, 
hung endways and with streamers of red flannel tacked 
on, that announces in Chinese characters that Dr. Chay 
Ten Chong sells Chinese herb medicines, or that Won 
Lung & Co. — queer contradiction — take in washing, or 
deal out tea and groceries. There are some gimcracks 
iTi the second story fire-escape of one of the houses, signi- 
fying that Joss or a club has a habitation there. An 
American patent medicine concern has seized the oppor- 
tunity to decorate the back-ground with its cabalistic 
trade-mark, that in this company looks as foreign as the 
rest. Doubtless the privilege was bought for cash. It 
will buy anything in Chinatown, Joss himself included, as 
indeed, why should it not? He was bought for cash 
across the sea and came here under the law that shuts out 
the live Cliinaman, but lets in his dead god on payment of 
the statutory duty on bric-a-brac. Ked and yellow are the 
holiday colors of Chinatown as of the Bend, but they do 
not lend brightness in Mott Street as around the comer in 
Mulberry. Rather, they seem to descend to the level of 
the general dulness, and ^glower at you from doors and 

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windows, from the telegraph pole that is tlie official organ 
of Chinatown and from tlie store signs, with blank, un- 
meaning stare, suggesting nothing, asking no questions, 
and answering none. Fifth Avenue is not duller on a 
rainy day than Mott Street to one in searcJi of excite- 
ment. Whatever is on foot goes on behind closed doors. 
Stealth and secretiveness are as much part of the China- 
man in !New York as the cat-like tread of liis felt shoes. 
Ilia business, as his domestic life, shuns the light, less be- 
cause there is anything to conceal than because tliat is the 
way of the man. Perhaps the attitude of American civili- 
zation toward the stranger, whom it invited in, has taught 
liim that way. At any rate, the very doorways of his 
offices and shops are fenced off by queer, forbidding 
partitions suggestive of a continual state of siege. The 
stranger who enters through the crooked approach is re- 
ceived with sudden silence, a sullen stare, and an angry 
" Yat yon vant ! " that breathes annoyance and distrust. 

Trust not him who trusts no one, is as safe a rule in 
Chinatown as out of it. Were not Mott Street overawed 
in its isolation, it would not be safe to descend this open 
cellar-way, through which come tlie pungent odor of burn- 
ing opium and the clink of copper coins on the table. As 
it is, though safe, it is not profitable to intrude. At tlie 
first foot-fall of leather soles on the steps the hum of talk 
ceases, and the group of celestials, crouching over theii- 
game of fan tan, stop playing and watch the comer with 
ugly looks. Fan tan is their ruling passion. The aver- 
age Chinaman, the police will tell you, would rather gam- 
ble than eat any day, and they have ample experience to 
back them. Only the fellow in the bunk smokes away, 
indifferent to all else but his pipe and his own enjoyment. 
It is a mistake to assume that Chinatown is honeycombed 

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with opium "joints," There are a good many more out- 
side of it than in it. The celestials do not monopolize 
the pipe. In Mott Street there ia no need of them. jSlot 
a Chinese home or harrow there but has its bunk and its 
lay-ont, where they can be enjoyed saf o from police inter- 
ference. The Chinaman smokes opium as Caucasians 
smoke tobacco, and apparently with little worse effect 
npon himself. But woe unto the white victim upon which 
his pitiless drug gets its grip ! 

The bloused pedlars who, with arms buried half to the 
elbow in their trousers' pockets, lounge beliind their stock 
of watermelon seed and sugar-cane, cut in lengths to suit 
the puree of tlie buyer, disdain to offer the barbarian their 
wares. Chinatown, that does most things by contraries, 
rules it holiday style to carry its hands in its pockets, and 
its denizens follow the fashion, whether in blue blouse, in 
gray, or in brown, with shining and braided pig-tail dang- 
ling below the knees, or with hair cropped short above a 
coat collar of " Melican " cut. All kinds of men are met, 
but no women— none at least with almond eyes. The 
reason is simple: there are none. A few, a veiy few, 
Chinese merchants have wives of their own color, but 
they are seldom or never seen in the street. The " wives " 
of Chinatown are of a different stock that comes closer 

From the teeming tenements to the right and left of it 
come the white slaves of its dens of vice and their infernal 
drug, that have infused into the "Bloody Sixth" "Ward 
a subtler poison than ever the stale-beer dives knew, or 
the " sudden death " of the Old Brewery. There are 
houses, dozens of tliem, in Mott and Pell Streets, that are 
literally jammed, from the "joint" in the cellar to the 
attic, with these hapless victims of a passion whichj once 



acquired, demands the sacrifice of every instinct of decen- 
cy to its insatiate desii-e. There is a cimrcii in Mott Street, 
at the entrance to Chinatown, that stands as a barrier be- 
tween it and the tenements beyond. Its young men have 
waged unceasing war upon the monstrous wickedness for 
years, but with very little real result. I have in mind a 
house in Pell Street that has been raided no end of times 
by the police, and its population emptied upon Blackwell's 
Island, or into the reformatories, yet is to-day honey- 
combed with scores of the conventional households of 
the Chinese quarter: tlie men worshippers of Joss; the 
women, all white, girls hardly yet grown to womanhood, 
worshipping nothing save the pipe that has enslaved them 
body and soul. Easily tempted from homes that have no 
claim upon the name, they rarely or never return. Mott 
Street gives np its victims only to the Charity Hospital or 
tlie Potter's Field. Of the depth of their fall no one is 
more thoroughly aware than these girls themselves ; no 
one less concerned about it. The calmness with which 
they discuss it, while insisting illogically upon the fiction 
of a marriage that deceives no one, is disheartening. 
Their misery is peculiarly fond of companj', and an 
amount of visiting goes on in these households that makes 
it extremely difficult for the stranger to untangle them. 
I came across a company of them " hitting the pipe " to- 
getlier, on a tour through their dens one night with the 
police captain of the precinct. The girls knew him, called 
Iiim by name, offered him a pipe, and chatted with him 
about the incidents of their acquaintance, how many times 
he had "sent them up," and their chances of "lasting" 
mnch longer. There was no shade of regret in their 
voices, nothing but utter indifference and surrender. 
One thing about them was conspicnons: their scmpu- 

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Ions neatness. It is tlie distinguishing mark of Cliina- 
town, outwardly and physicaHy. It is not altogether by 
chance the Chinaman has chosen the laundry as his dis- 
tinctive field. He is by nature as clean as the cat, which 
he resembles in his traits of cruet cunning and savage 
fuiy when aroused. On this point of c]eanlineB8 he in- 
sists in his domestic circle, yielding in others with crafty 
submissiveness to the caprice of the girls, who " boss " him 
in a vevy independent manner, fretting vengefuily under 
the yoke they loatiie, but which they know right well they 
can never shake off, once tJiey have put the pipe to their 
lips and given Mott Street a mortgage upon their souls 
for all time. To the priest, whom they call in when the 
poison racks the body, they pretend that they are yet their 
own masters ; but he knows that it is an idle boast, least 
of all believed by themselves. As he walks with them 
the few short steps to the Potter's Field, he hears the sad 
stoiy he has heard told over and over again, of father, 
mother, home and friends given up for the accursed pipe, 
and stands hopeless and helpless before the colossal evil 
for which he knows no remedy. 

The frequent assertions of the authorities that at least 
no girls under age are wrecked on this Chinese shoal, are 
disproved by the observation of those who go frequently 
among these dens, though the smallest girl will invariably, 
and usually without being asked, insist that she is sixteen, 
and so of age to choose the company she keeps. Such as- 
sertions are not to be taken seriously. Even wliile I am 
writing, the morning returns from one of the pi'ecincta 
that pass through my hands report the arrest of a China- 
man for " inveigling little girls into hia laundry," one of 
the hundred outposts of Chinatown that are scattered ail 
over the city, as the outer threads of the spider's web that 

.. Cortt^lp. 


holds its prey fast. Reference to case No. 39,499 in this 
year's report of tlie Society for the Prevention of Cruelty 
to Cliildreri, will discover one of the much travelled roads 
to Chinatown, The girl whose story it tells was thirteen, 
and one of six children abandoned by a dissipated father. 
She had been discharged from an Eighth Avenue store, 
wliere she was employed as cash girl, and, being afraid to 
tell her mother, floated about until she landed in a Chin- 
ese laundry. The judge lieeded her tearful prayer, and 

sent her home with lier mother, but she was back again in 
a little while despite all promises of reform. 

Her tyrant knows well that she will come, and patiently 
bides his time. "Wlien her struggles in the web liave 
ceased at last, he rales no longer with gloved hand. A 
specimen of celestial logic from the home circle at this 
period came home to me with a personal application one 
evening when I attempted, with a policeman, to stop a 
Chinaman whom we fonnd beating his white "wife" 
with a broom-handle in a Mott Street cellar. He was 

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angry at our interference, and declared vehemently that 
she was " bad," 

" S'ppose your wifee bad, you no lickee her ? " he asked, 
aB if there conld be no appeal from such a cominon- 
Bense proposition as that. My assurance that I did not, 
that Buch a thing could not occur to me, struck liim dumb 
with amazement. He eyed me a while in stupid silence, 
poked the linen in his tub, stole another look, and made 
up his mind. A gleam of intelligence shone in his eye, 
and pity and contempt struggled in his voice. " Then, I 
guess, she lickee you," he said. 

No smalt commotion was caused in Chinatown once 
upon the occasion of an expedition I undertook, accom- 
panied by a .couple of police detectives, to photograph 
Joss. Some conscienceless wag spread the report, after 
we were gone, that his picture was wanted for the Rogues' 
Gallery at Headquarters. The insult was too gross to be 
passed over without atonement of some sort. Two roast 
pigs made matters all right with his offended majesty of 
Mott Street, and with his attendant priests, who bear a 
very practical hand in the worship by serving as the 
divine stomach, as it wera They eat the good things set 
before their rice-paper master, unless, as once happened, 
BOme sacrilegious tramp sneaks in and gets ahead of them. 
The practical way in which these people combine wor- 
ship with business is certainly admirable. I was told that 
the scrawl covering the wall on both sides of the shrine 
stood for the names of the pillars of the church or club 
— the Joss House is both — that they might have their re- 
ward in this world, no matter what happened to them in 
the next. There was another inscription overhead that 
needed no interpreter. In familiar English letters, copied 
bodily from the trade dollar, was the sentiment : " In God 




we trust." The priest pointed to it with undisguised 
pride and attempted an explanation, from which I gatli- 
ered that the inscription was intended as a diplomatic 
courtesy, a delicate international compliment to the " Mel- 
jean Joss," the almighty dollar. 

Chinatown iiasenlisted the telegraph for the dissemina- 

tion of public intelligence, but it has got hold of the con- 
ti-ivance by the wrong end. As the wires serve iis in 
newspaper- making, so the Chinaman makes use of the 
pole for the same purpose. The telegraph pole, of which 
I spoke as the real official organ of Chinatown, stands not 
far fi-om the Joss House in Mott Street, in full view from 
Chatham Square, In it centres the real life of the col- 



ony, its gambling news. Every day yellow and red notices 
are posted npon it by unseen bauds, announcing that in 
such and such a cellar a fan tan game will be running that 
night, or warning the faithful tiiat a raid is intended on 
this or that game through the machination of a rival in- 
terest. A constant stream of plotting and counter-plotting 
makes up the round of Chinese social and political exis- 
tence, I do not pretend to understand the exact political 
structure of the colony, or its interual government. Even 
discarding as idle the stories of a secret cabal with power 
over life and death, and anthority to enforce its decrees, 
there is evidence enough that the Chinese consider them- 
selves subject to the laws of the land only when submis- 
sion is unavoidable, and that they are governed by a code 
of their own, the very essence of which is rejection of all 
other authority except under compulsion. If now and 
then some Iiornble crime in the Chinese colony, a murder 
of such hideous ferocity as one I have a very vivid recol- 
lection of, where the murderer stabbed his victim (both 
Chinamen, of course) in the back with a meat-knife, 
plunging it in to the hilt no less than seventeen times, 
arouses the popular prejudice to a suspicion that it was 
" ordered," only the suspected themselves are to blame, 
for they appear to rise up as one man to shield the crini- 
inai. The difficulty of tracing the motive of the crime 
and the murderer is extreme, and it is the rarest of all re- 
sults that the police get on the track of either. The 
obstacles in the way of hunting down an Italian murderer 
are as nothing to the opposition encountered in China- 
town. Nor is the failure of the pursuit wholly to be 
ascribed to the familiar fact that to Caucasian eyes " all 
Chinamen look alike," but rather to their acting " alike," 
in a body, to defeat discovery at any cost. 



Withal the police give the Chinese the name of being 
the "qnietest people down there," meaning in the notori- 
ously turbulent Sixth Ward ; and they are. The one 
thing they desire above all is to be let alone, a very nat- 
ural wish perhaps, considering all the circumstances. If 
it were a laudabie or even an allowable ambition that 
prompts it, they might be humored with advantage, prob- 
ably, to both sides. But the facts show too plainly that 
it is not, and tiiat in their very excluaiveness and reserve 
they are a constant and terrible menace to society, wholly 
regardless of tlieir influence upon the industrial problems 
which their presence confuses. The severest official scru- 
tiny, the harshest repressive measures are justifiable in 
Cliinatown, orderly as it appears on the surface, even more 
than in the Bend, and the case is infinitely more urgent. 
To the peri! that threatens there all the senses are alert, 
whereas the poison that proceeds from Hott Street puts 
mind and body to sleep, to work out its deadly purpose in 
the corruption of tlie soul. 

This again may he set down as a harsh judgment. I 
may be accused of inciting persecution of an unoffending 
people. Far from it. Granted, that the Chinese are in 
no sense a desirable element of the population, that they 
serve no useful purpose here, whatever they may have 
done elsewhere in other days, yet to this it ia a sufficient 
answer that they are here, and that, having let them in, we 
must make the best of it. This is a time for very plain 
speaking on this subject. Rather than banish the China- 
man, I would have tlie door opened wider — for his wife ; 
make it a condition of his coming or staying that he bring 
Iiis wife with him. Then, at least, he might not be what 
he now is and remains, a liomeless stranger among us. 
Upon this hinges the real Chinese question, in our city at 

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all events, aa I see it. To assert that the victims of his 
drug and his base passions would go to the bad anyhow, ie 
beting tlie question, Tiiej might and they miglit not. 
The chance is tbe span between life and death. From 
any otJier form of dissipation than that for which China- 
town stands there is recovery ; for the victims of any other 
vice, hope. For these there is neither hope nor recovery ; 
nothing bnt death — moral, mental, and physical death. 

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THE tenements grow taller, and the gap3 in their ranks 
close up rapidly as we cross the Bowery and, leaving 
Chinatown and the Italians behind, invade the Hebrew 
quarter. Baxter Street, with its interminable rows of old 
clothes shops and its brigades of puUers-iii — nicknamed 
" the Bay " in honor, perhaps, of the tars who lay to there 
after a cruise to stock up their togs, or maybe after the 
"schooners" of beer plentifully bespoke in that latitude — 
Bayard Street, with its synagogues and its crowds, gave us 
a foretaste of it. No need of asking here where we are. 
The jargon of the street, the signs of the sidewalk, the 
manner and dress of the people, their unmistakable physi- 
ognomy, betray their race at every step. Men with queer 
skull-caps, venerable beard, and the outlandish long-skirt- 
ed kaftan of the Russian Jew, elbow the ugliest and the 
handsomest women in the land. The contrast is startling. 
The old women are hags; tlie young, houris. Wives 
and mothers at sixteen, at thirty they are old. So thor- 
oughly has tiie chosen people crowded out the Gentiles in 
the Tenth Ward that, when the great Jewish liolidays 
come around every year, the public schools in the district 
have practically to close up. Of their tnousands of pupils 
scai-ce a handful come to school. Kor is there any suspi- 
cion that the rest are playing hookey, '^ley stay honestly 

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home to celebrate. There is no mistaking it : we are in 

It is said that nowhere in the world are so many peo- 
ple crowded together on a square mile as here. The av- 
erage five-story tenement adds a story or two to its stature 
in Lndlow Street and an extra building on the rear lot, 
and yet the sign " To Let " is the rarest of all there. Here 
is one seven stories high. The sanitary policeman whose 
beat this is will teli you that it contains thirty-six families, 
but the term has a widely different meaning here and on 
the avenues. In this house, where a ease of small-pox 
was reported, there were fifty-eight babies and thirty- 
eight children that were over five years of age. In Essex 
Street two small moms in a six-story tenement were made 
to hold a " family " of father and motlier, twelve children 
and six boarders. The boarder plays as important a part 
in the domestic economy of Jewtown as tlie lodger in the 
Mulberry Street Bend. These are samples of the packing 
of the population that has rnn up the record here to the 
rate of three hnndred and thirty thousand per square mile. 
The densest crowding of Old London, I pointed out before, 
never got beyond a hundred and seventy-five thousand. 
Even tlie alley is crowded out. Through dark hallways 
and filthy cellars, crowded, as is every foot of the street, 
with dirty children, the settlements in the rear are 
reached. Thieves know how to find them when pursued 
by tlie police, and the tramps that sneak in on chilly 
nights to fight for the warm spot in the yard over some 
baker's oven. They are out of place in this hive of busy 
industry, and tliey know it. It has nothing in common 
with them or with their philosophy of life, that the world 
owes the idler a living. Life here means the hardest kind 
of work almost from the cradle. The world as a debtor 

jy Coo' I ^Ue" 



has no credit in Jewtown. Its promise to pay wouldn't 
buy one of tlie old hats that are hawked about Hester 
Street, unless backed by security representing iaboi' done 
at lowest market rates. But this army of workei's must 
have bread. It is cheap and filling, and bakeries abound. 
Wherever they are in the tenements the tramp will skulk 
in, if he can. There is such a tramps' roost in the rear of 
a tenement near the lower end of Ludlow Street, that is 
never without its tenants in winter. By a judicious prac- 

tice of flopping over on the stone pavement at intervals 
and thus warming one side at a time, and with an empty 
box to put the feet in, it is possible to keep reasonably 
comfortable there even on a rainy night. In summer the 
yard is the only one in the neighborhood that does not 
do duty as a public dormitory. 

Thrift is the watcliword of Jewtown, as of its people the 
world over. It is at once its strength and its fatal weak- 
ness, its cardinal virtue and its foul disgrace. Become an 
over-mastering passion with these people who eome here 

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in droves from Eastern Europe to escape persecution, from 
wiiieh freedom could be bought only with gold, it lias 
enslaved them in bondage worse than that from which 
tliey fled. Money is their God. Life itself is of little 
value compared with even the leanest bank account. In 
no other spot does life wear so intensely bald and materi- 
alistic an aspect as in Ludlow Street. Over and over again 
I have met with instances of these Polish or Kussiaii Jews 
deliberately starving themselves to the point of physical 
exhaustion, while working night and day at a tremendous 
pressure to save a little money. An avenging Nemesis 
pursues this headlong hunt for wealth ; there is no worse 
paid class anywliere. I once put the question to one of 
their own people, who, being a pawnbroker, and an unu- 
sually intelligent and charitable one, certainly enjoyed the 
advantage of a practical view of the situation : " Whence 
tlie many wretchedly poor people in such a colony of 
workers, where povertj', from a misfortune, has become 
a reproach, dreaded as the plague ? " 

" Immigration," he said, " brings us a lot. In five 
years it has averaged twenty-five thousand a year, of 
which more that seventy per cent, have stayed in New 
York. Half of them require and receive aid from the 
Hebrew Charities from the very start, lest they starve. 
That is one explanation. There is another class than the 
one that cannot get work : those who have had too much 
of it ; who have worked and hoarded and lived, crowded 
together like pigs, on the scantiest fare and tlie worst to 
be got, bound to save whatever their earnings, until, worn 
out, they could work no longer. Then their hoards were 
soon exhausted. That is their story." And I knew that 
what he said was true. 

Penury and poverty are wedded everywhere to dirt and 



disease, aad Jewtown is no exception. It could not well 
be otherwise in such crowds, considering especially their 
low intellectual status. The managers of the Eastern 
Dispensary, which is in the very heart of their district, 
told the wliole story when they said ; " The diseases these 
people suffer from are not due to intemperance or immo- 
rality, but to ignorance, want of suitable food, and the 
foul air in which they live and work." * The homes of 
the Hebrew quarter are its workshops also. liefereuce 
will be made to the economic conditions under which they 
work in a succeeding chapter. Here we are concerned 
simply with the fact. You are made fully aware of it be- 
fore you have travelled the length of a single block in 
any of these East Side streets, by the whir of a thousand 
sewing-machines, worked at high pressure from earliest 
dawn till mind and muscle give out together. Every 
member of the family, from the youngest to the oldest, 
bears a hand, shut in the qualmy rooms, where meals are 
cooked and clothing washed and dried besides, the live- 
long day. It is not unusual to find a dozen persons — men, 
women, and children — at work in a single small room. The 
fact accounts for the contrast that strikes with wonder the 
observer who conies across from the Bend. Over there 
the entire population seems possessed of an uncontrolla- 
ble impulse to get out into the street ; here all its ener- 
gies appear to be bent upon keeping in and away from it. 
Not that the streets are deserted. The overflow from 
these tenements is enough to make a crowd anywhere. 
The children alone would do it. Kot old enough to work 
and no room for play, that is their story. In the home 
the child's place is usurped by the lodger, who performs 
the service of the Irishman's pig — pays the rent. In the 
■ Report of Eastern Dispensary for 1889. 



Btreet the army of lincksters crowd him out. Typhus 
fever and Bmall-pox are bred liere, and help solve the 
question what to do with him. l^Ilth diseasea both, they 
sprout naturally among the hordes that bring the germa 
with them from across the sea, and whose first instinct is 
to hide their sick lest the authorities carry them off to tlie 
hospital to be slaughtered, as they firmly believe. The 
health officers are on constant and sharp lookout for hid- 
den fever-nests. Considering that half of the ready-made 
clotiies that are sold in the big stores, if not a good deal 
more than half, are made in these tenement rooms, this ia 
not excessive caution. It has happened more than once 
that a child recovering from small-pox, and in the most 
contagious stage of tlie disease, has been found crawling 
among heaps of lialf-finished clothing that the next day 
would be offered for sale on the counter of a Broadway 
store ; or that a typhus fever patient has been discovered 
in a room whence perhaps a hundred coats had been sent 
home that week, each one with the wearer's death-war- 
rant, unseen and unsuspected, basted in the lining. 

The health officers call the Tenth the typhus ward ; in 
tlie office where deaths are registered it passes as the 
"suicide ward," for reasons not hard to understand; and 
among the police as the "crooked ward," on account of 
the number of "crooks," petty thieves and their allies, the 
" fences," receivers of stolen goods, who find the dense 
crowds congenial. The nearness of the Bowery, the great 
" thieves' highway," helps to keep up the supply of these, 
but Jewtown does not support its dives. Its troubles 
with the police are the characteiistic crop of its intense 
business rivalries. Oppression, persecution, have not 
shorn the Jew of his native eombativeness one whit. He 
13 as ready to fight for hia rights, or what he considers his 



rights, in a business transaction— synonymous generally 
with his advantage — as if he had not been robbed of them' 
for eighteen linndred years. One strong inipi-ession sur- 
vives witli liini from his days of bondage : the power of 
the law. On the slightest provocation he rushes off to in- 
voke it for liis protection. Doubtless the sensation is 
novel to hini, and therefore pleasing. The police at the 
Eldridge Street station are in a constant turmoil over 
these everlasting fights. Somebody is always denouncing 
somebody else, and getting his enemy or Iiiinself locked 
up; frequently both, for the prisoner, when brought in, 
lias generally as plausible a stoi-y to tell as his accuser, and 
as liot a charge to malce. The day closes on a wild con- 
flict of rival interests. Another dawns with the prisoner 
in court, but no complainant. Over night the case has 
been settled on a business basis, and the police dismiss 
their prisoner in deep disgust. , 

These quairels have sometimes a comic aspect. Thus, 
with the nnmerotts dancing-echools that are scattered 
among the synagogues, often keeping them company in 
the same tenement. They are generally kept by some 
man who works in tiie daytime at tailoring, cigarmaking, 
or something else. The young people in Jewtown are 
inordinately fond of dancing, and after their day's hard 
work will flock to these " schools " for a night's recrea- 
tion. But even to their fun they carry their business pre- 
ferences, and it happens that a school adjourns in a bodv 
to make a general raid on the rival establishment across 
the street, without the ceremony of paying the admission 
fee. Then the dance breaks up in a general fight, in 
which, likely enough, someone is badly hurt. The police 
come in, as usual, and ring down the curtain. 

Bitter as are his private feuds, it is not until his reli 

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gious life is invaded that a real inside view is obtained of 
this Jew, wliom the history of Cliriatian civilization haa 
taught notiiing but fear and hatred. There are two or 
three missions in the district conducting a hopeless prop- 
agandism for the Messiaii whom the Tenth Ward re- 
jects, and they attract occasional crowds, who come to 
hear the Christian preacher as the Jews of old gathered 
to hear the apostles expound tlie new doctrine. The re- 
sult is often strikingly similar. "For once," said a certain 
weli-known minister of an uptown church to me, after 
such an experience, "I felt justiiiod in comparing myself 
to Paul preaching salvation to the Jews. They kept still 
nntil I spoke of Jesus Christ as the Son of God. Then 
they got up and fell to arguing among themselves and to 
threatening n»e, until it looked as if they meant to take 
me out in Hester Street and stone me." As at Jerusalem, 
the Chief Captain was happily at hand with his centurions, 
in the person of a sergeant and three policemen, and the 
preacher was rescued. So, in all matters pertaining to 
their religious life that tinges all their customs, they stand, 
these East Side Jews, where the new day that dawned on 
Calvary left them standing, stubbornly refusing to see the 
light. A visit to a Jewish house of mourning is like 
bridging the gap of two thousand years. The inexpress- 
ibly sad and sorrowful wail for the dead, as it swells and 
lises in the hush of all sounds of life, comes back from the 
ages like a mournful echo of the voice of Eachel " weeping 
for her children and refusing to be comforted, because 
they are not." 

Attached to manj of the synagogues, which among the 
poorest Jews frequently consist of a scantily furnished 
room in a rear tenement, with a few wooden stools or 
benches for the congregation, are Talmudie schools that 

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absorb a share of the growing youth. The school-master 
ia not rarely a man of some attainments who has been 
stranded there, his native instinct for money-making hav- 
iTig been smothered in the process that has made of him a 
learned man. It was of sncli a school in Eldridge Street 
that the wicked Isaac lacob, who killed his enemy, his 
wife, and himself in one day, was janitor. But the 
majority of the children seek the public bcIiooIs, where 
they are received sometimes with some misgivings on the 
part of the teachers, who find it necessary to inculcate 
lessons of cleanliness in the worst cases by practical dem- 
onstration with wash-bowl and soap. " He took hold 
of the soap as if it were some animal," said one of these 
teachers to me after such an experiment upon a new 
pupil, "and wiped three fingers across his face. He 
called that wasliing," In the Allen Street public school 
tlie experienced principal has embodied among the ele- 
mentary lessons, to keep constantly before the children 
the duty that clearly lies next to their hands, a character- 
istic exercise. The question is asked daily from the 
teacher's desk : " What must I do to be healthy ? " and 
the whole school responds : 

" I mu;t k^ep raj skin clean, 
Wear olean clothes. 
Breathe pare air, 
And live in the sunlight." 

It seems little less than biting sarcasm to hear them say 
it, for to not a few of them all these things are known 
only by name. In their eveiyday life there is nothing 
even to suggest any of them. Only the demand of reli- 
gions custom has power to make their parents clean up at 
stated intervals, and the young naturally are no better. 

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As scholars, the cliildren of the most ignorant Polish 
Jew keep fairly abreast o£ their more favored playmates, 
until it comes to mental arithmetic, when tiiey leave 
them behind with a bound. It is surprising to see how 
strong the instinct of dollars and cents is in them. 
They can count, and correctly, almost before they can 

Within & few years the police captured on the East Side 
a band of firebugs who made a business of setting fire to 
tenements for the insurance on tlieir furnitnre. There has, 
unfortunately, been some evidence in the past year that 
anotlier such conspiracy is on foot. The danger to which 
these fiends expose their fellow- ten ants is appalling. A 
fire-panic at night in a tenement, by no means among 
the rare experiences in New York, with the surging, half- 
smothered crowds on stairs and fire-escapes, the frantic 
mothers and crying children, the wild struggle to save the 
little that is their all, is a horror that has few parallels in 
human experience. 

I cannot think without a shudder of one such scene in a 
First Avenue tenement. It was in the middle of the night. 
Tlie fire had swept up with sudden fury from a restaurant 
on tlie street floor, cutting off escape. Men and women 
tiirew themselves from the windows, or were carried down 
senseless by the firemen. Thirteen half-clad, apparently 
lifeless bodies were laid on the floor of an adjoining coal- 
offlce, and the ambulance surgeons worked over them with 
sleeves I'olled up to the elbows. A half-grown girl with 
a baby in her arms walked about among the dead and 
dying with a stunned, vacant look, singing in a low, scared 
voice to the child. One of the doctors took her arm to 
lead her out, and patted the cbeek of the baby soothingly. 
It was cold. The baby had been smothered with its 

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father and mother ; but the girl, her sister, did not know 
it. Her reason had fled, 

Tiinrsday night and Friday morning are bargain days 
in the " Pig-market." Then is the time to study the ways 
of this peculiar people to the best advantage. A common 
pulse beats in the quarters of the Polish Jews and in the 
Mulbeny Bend, though they have little else in common. 
Life over yonder in fine weather is a perpetual holiday, 
here a veritable tread-mill of industry. Friday brings out 
all the latent color and picturesqueness of the Italians, as 
of these Semites. The crowds and the common poverty 
are the bonds of sympathy between them. The Pig-mar- 
ket is in Hester Street, extending either way from Lud- 
low Street, and up and down the side streets two or three 
blocks, as the state of trade demands. The name was 
given to it probably in derision, for pork is the one ware 
that is not on sale in the Pig-market. There is scarcely 
anything else that can be hawked from a wagon that is 
not to be found, and at ridiculously low prices. Bandan- 
nas and tin cnps at two cents, peaches at a cent a quait, 
*' damaged " eggs for a song, hats for a quarter, and spec- 
tacles, warranted to suit the eye, at the optician's who has 
Opened shop ou a Hester Street door-step, for tliirty five 
cents ; frowsy-looking chickens and half-plucked geese, 
hung by the neck and protesting with wildly strutting 
feet even in death against the outrage, are the great staple 
of the market. Half or a quarter of a chicken can be 
bonght here by those who cannot afford a wliole. It took 
more than ten years of persistent efFort on the part of the 
sanitary authorities to drive the trade in live fowl fi-om 
the streets to the fowl-market on Gouverneur Slip, where 
the killing is now done according to Jewish rite by priests 
detailed for the purpose by the chief rabbi. Since then 

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tliej have had a characteristic rnmpiis, that involved the 
entire Jewish eommunity, over the fees for killing and the 
mode of collecting them. Here is a woman cliiirning 
horse-radish on a machine she has chained and padlocked 
to a tree on the sidewalk, lest someone steal it. Beside 
her a butcher's stand with cuts at prices tlie avenues never 
dreamed of. Old coats are hawked for fifty cents, "as 
good as new," and "pants" — there are no trousers in 
Jewtown, only pants — at anything that can be got. 
There is a knot of half a dozen "pants" pedlars in tlie 
middle of tlie street, twice as many men of tlieir own 
race fingering tlieir wares and plucking at the seams 
with the anxious scrutiny of would-be buyers, though 
none of them has the least idea of investing in a pair. 
Yes, stop ! This baker, fresh from liis trough, bare-headed 
and with bare ai'ms, has made an offer : for this pair thirty 
cents ; a dollar and forty was the price asked. The ped- 
lar shrugs Iiis shoulders, and turns up his hands with a 
half pitying, wliolly indignant air. What does the baker 
take him for ? Such pants — , The baker has tnrned to 
go. With a jump like a panther's, the man with the 
pants has him by the sleeve. Will he give eighty cents ? 
Sixty ? Fifty ? So help him, they are dirt cheap at that. 
Lose, will lie, on the trade, lose all the profit of his day's 
pediing. The baker goes on unmoved. Forty then 'i 
What, not forty? Take them then for thirty, and wreck 
the life of a poor man. And the baker takes them and 
goes, well knowing that at least twenty cents of the thirty, 
two hundi-ed per cent, were clear profit, if indeed the 
" pants " cost the pedlar anything. 

The suspender pedlar is tlie mystery of the Pig-market, 
omnipresent and unfathomable. He is met at every step 
with his wares dangling over his shoulder, down his back, 

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and in front. Millions of suspenders tlins perambulate 
Jewtown all day on a sort of dress parade. Why suspen- 
ders, is the puzzle, and where do they all go to ? The 
" pants " of Jewtown hang down with a common accoi-d, 
as if tliej had never known the support of suspenders. It 
appears to be as characteristic a trait of the race as the 
long beard and the Sabbath silk liat of ancient pedigree. 
I liave asked again and again. No one has ever been able 
to tell me what becomes of the suspenders of Jewtown. 
Perhaps they are hung up as bric-^-brac in its homes, or 
laid away and saved up as the equivalent of cash. I can- 
not tell. I only know that more suspendere are hawked 
about the Pig-market every day than would supply the 
whole of New York for a year, wei'e they all bought and 
turned to use. 

The crowds tliat jostle each other at the wagons and 
about the sidewalk shops, "where a gutter plank on two 
asli-barrels does duty for a counter ! Pushing, struggling, 
babbling, and shouting in foreign tongues, a veritable 
Babel of confusion. An English word falls upon the ear 
almost with a sense of shock, as something unexpected 
and strange. In the midst of it ail there is a sudden wild 
scattering, a hustling of things from the street into dark 
cellars, into back-yards and by-ways, a slamming and 
locking of doors hidden under the improvised shelves and 
counters. The health officers' cart is coming down the 
street, preceded and followed by stalwart policemen, who 
shovel up with scant ceremony the eatables — ninsty bread, 
decayed fish and stale vegetables— indifferent to the curses 
that are showered on them from stoops and windows, and 
carry them off to the dump. In the wake of the wagon, 
as it makes its way to the East Kiver after tlie raid, fol- 
low a line of despoiled hucksters shouting defiance from a 

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JEWTOWN"." 119 

safe distance. Their clamor dies away with the noise of 
the market. The endless panorama of the tenements, 
rows upon rows, between stony streets, stretches to the 
north, to the south, and to the west as far as the eye 

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ANYTHING like an exhaustive discussion of the eco- 
nomical problem presented by the Tenth Ward * 
is beset by difBculties that increase in precise proportion 
to the efforts put forth to remove them. I have too vivid 
a recollection of weary days and nights spent in those 
stewing tenements, trying to get to the bottom of the vex- 
ations question only to find myself in the end as far from 
the truth as at the beginning, asking with rising wrath 
Pilate's question, " What is truth ? " to attempt to weary 
the reader by dragging him with me over that sterile and 
nnprofitable ground. Nor ai-e these pages the place for 
such a discussion. In it, let me confess it at once and 
have done with it, I should be like the blind leading the 
blind ; between the real and apparent poverty, the hidden 
hoards and the unhesitating mendacity of these people, 
where they conceive their interests to be concerned in one 
way or another, the reader and I would fall together into 
the ditch of doubt and conjecture in which I have found 
company before. 

The facts that lie on the surface indicate the causes as 
clearly as the nature of the trouble. In effect both have 

• I refer to the Tenth Ward always as typical. The district embraced 
in the discussion really includes the Thirteenth Ward, and in a growing 
sense large portions of the Seveiitli and oonliguona wards as welL 



been already stated, A friend of mine wlio inaimfactures 
cloth onee boasted to me tliat nowadays, on cheap cloth- 
ing, New York " beats the world." " To wiiat," I asked, 
" do you attribute it ? " " To the cntter's long knife * and 
the Polish Jew," he said. Which of the two has cut 
deepest into the workman's wages is not a doubtful ques- 
tion. Practically the Jew has monopolized the business 
since the battle between East Broadway and Broadway 
ended in a complete victorj' for the East Side and cheap 
labor, and transferred to it the control of the trade in 
cheap clothing. Yet, not satisfied with having won the 
field, he strives as hotly with his own for the profit of 
half a cent as he fought with his Christian competitor 
for the dollar. If the victory is a barren one, the blame 
is his own. His price is not what he can get, but the 
lowest he can live fer and underbid his neighbor. Just 
what that means we shall see. The manufacturer knows 
it, and is not slow to take advantage of his knowledge. 
He makes him hungry for work by keeping it from him 
as long as possible ; then drives the closest bargain he can 
with the sweater. 

Many harsh things have been said of tlie " sweater," 
that really applj' to the system in which he is a necessary, 
logical link. It can at least be said of him that he is no 
worse than the conditions that created him. The sweater 
is simply the middleman, the sub-contractor, a workman 
like his fellows, perhaps with the single distinction from 
the rest that he knows a little English ; perhaps not even 
that, but with the accidental possession of two or three 
sewing-machines, or of credit enough to hire them, as his 
capital, who drums up work among the clothing-houses. 

* An InTentioD thit cut) many garments at onoa, where the toiBaon 
could cut only a tew. 



Of workmen lie can always get enougli. Every ship-load 
from German ports brings tlietn to liis door in di'oves, 
clamoring for work. The sun sets upon tiie day of the 
airival of many a Polish Jew, finding him at work in an 
East Side tenement, treading the machine and "learning 
the trade." Often there are two, sometimes three, sets of 
sweaters on one job. They work with the rest when they 
are not drunnning np trade, driving their " hands " as they 
drive their machine, for all they are worth, and making a 
profit on their work, of course, though in most cases not 
nearly as extravagant a percentage, probably, as is often 
supposed. If it resolves itself into a margin of five or six 
cents, or even !ess, on a dozen paire of boys' trousers, for 
instance, it is nevertheless enough to make the contractor 
with his thrifty instincts independent. The workman 
growls, not at the hard labor or p5or pay, but over the 
pennies another is coining out of his sweat, and on the 
first opportunity turns sweater himself, and takes his re- 
venge by driving an even closer bargain tlian his rival 
tyrant, thus reducing his profits. 

The sweater knows well that the isolation of the work- 
man in his helpless ignorance is his sure foundation, and 
he has done what he coiiid — with merciless severity where 
he could — to smother every symptom of awakening intel- 
ligence in his slaves. In this effort to perpetuate his des- 
potism he has bad the effectual assistance of his own 
system and the sharp competition that keep the men on 
starvation wages ; of their constitutional greed, tliat will 
not permit the sacrifice of temporary advantage, however 
slight, for permanent good, and above all, of the hungry 
hordes of immigrants to whom no argument appeals save 
the cry for bread. Within very recent times lie has, how- 
ever, been forced to partial surrender by tlie organization 

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of the men to a considerable extent into trades unions, and 
b^ experiments in co-operation, under intelligent lead- 
enjiip, that presage the sweater's doom. But as long 
as the ignorant crowds continue to come and to herd in 
these tenements, his grip can never be shaken oif. And 
the supply across the seas is apparently inexhaustible. 
Every fresh persecution of the Russian or Polish Jew on 
his native soil starts greater liordes hitlierward to con- 
found economical problems, and recruit the sweater's pha- 
lanx. The curse of bigotry and ignorance reaches half- 
way across the world, to sow its bitter seed in fertile soil 
in the East Side tenements. If the Jew himself was to 
blame for the resentment he aroused over there, he is 
amply punished. He gathers the first-fruits of the har- 
vest here. 

The bulk of the sweater's work is done in the tenements, 
which the law that regulates factory labor does not reach. 
To tlie factories themselvestliat are talcing the place of the 
rear tenements in rapidly gi-owing numbers, letting in 
bigger day-crowds than those the health officers banished, 
the tenement shops serve as a supplement through which 
the law is successfully evaded. Ten hours is the legal 
work-day in the factories, and nine o'clock the closing 
hour at the latest. Forty-five minutes at least must be 
allowed for dinner, and children under sixteen must not 
be employed imless they can read and write English ; none 
at all under fourteen. The very fact that such a law 
should stand on the statute hook, shows how desperate the 
plight of these people. But the tenement has defeated 
its benevolent purpose. In it the child works unchallenged 
from the day he is old enough to pull a thread. There is 
no such thing as a dinner hour ; men and women eat while 
they work, and the " day " is lengthened at both ends far 

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into the night. Factory hands take their work with them 
at the close of the lawful day to eke out their scanty earn- 
ings by working overtime at iioine. Little chance on this 
ground for the campaign of education that alone can bring 
the needed relief; small wonder that there are whole 
settlements on this East Side where English is practically 
an unknown tongue, though tlie people be both willing and 
anxious to learn. " When shall we find time to leani ? " 
asked one of them of me once, lowe him the answer yet. 
Take the Second Avenue Elevated Railroad at Chatham 
Square and ride up half a mile through the sweaters' dis- 
trict. Every open window of the big tenements, that 
stand like a contitmous brick wall on both sides of the 
way, gives you aglimpse of one of these shops as the train 
speeds by. Men and women bending over tlieir machines, 
or ii-oning clothes at the window, half-naked. Proprieties 
do not count on the East Side ; notliing counts that can- 
not be converted into hard cash. The I'oad is like a big 
gangway through an endless work-room where vast multi- 
tudes are forever laboring. Morning, noon, or night, it 
makes no difference ; the scene is always the same. At 
Eivington Street let us get off and continue our trip on 
foot. It is Sunday evening west of the Bowery. Here, 
under the rule of Mosaic law, the week of work is under 
full headway, its first day far spent. The hucksters' 
wagons are absent or stand idle at tlie curb ; the saloons 
admit the thirsty crowds through the side-door labelled 
" Family Entrance ; " a tin sign in a store-window an- 
nounces that a " Sunday School "gathers in stray children 
of the new dispensation ; but beyond these things there 
is little to suggest the Christian Sabbath. Men staler 
along the sidewalk groaning under heavy burdens of un- 
sewn garments, or enormous black bags stuffed full of 

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finiehed coats and trousers. Let ns follow one to his 
home and see how Sunday passes in a Ludlow Street 

Up two flights of dark stairs, three, four, with new 
smells of cabbage, of onions, of frying fish, on every land- 
ing, whirring sewing machines behind closed doors betray- 
ing what goes on within, to the door that opens to admit 
the bundle and the man. A sweater, tliis, in a small way. 
Five men and a woman, two yonng girls, not fifteen, and 
a boy who says unasked tiiat he is fifteen, and lies in say- 
ing it, are at the machines sewing knickerbockers, "knee- 
pants " in the Ludlow Street dialect. The floor is littered 
anlde-deep with half-sewn garments. In tlie alcove, on 
a conch of many dozens of "pants" ready for the fin- 
isher, a bare-legged baby with pinched face is asleep. A 
fence of piled-np clothing keeps him from rolling off on 
the floor. The faces, hands, and arms to the elbows of 
everyone in the room are black with the color of the cloth 
on which they are working. The boy and the woman 
alone look np at onr entrance. The girls shoot sidelong 
glances, but at a warning look from the man with the 
bundle they tread their machines more energetically than 
ever. The men do not appear to be aware even of the 
presence of a stranger. 

They are " learners," all of them, says the woman, who 
proves to be the wife of the boss, and have " come ovei'" 
only a few weeks ago. She is disinclined to talk at first, 
but a few words in her own tongue from onrgnide*8et her 
fears, whatever they are, at rest, and she grows almost 

* I was always accompanied on these tours of inqniry hj one of their 
own people who knew of and sympathized with my mission. Without 
that precantion my eirand would have been frnitless ; even witt him it 



talkative. The learners work for week's wages, she says. 
How much do they earn ? She shrugs her slionlders with 
an expressive gesture. The workers tlienieelves, asked in 
their own tongue, say indifferently, as though the question 
were of no interest : from two tofivedollars. Thechildi-en 
— there are four of tliem — are not old enough to work. The 
oldest is only six. They turn out one hnndred and twenty 
dozen " knee-pants " a week, for which the manufaetui-ei 
pays seventy cents a dozen. Five cents a dozen is the 
clear profit, but her own and her htisbaiid's work brings 
the f amiJy earnings up to twenty-five dollars a week, when 
they have work all the time. But often half the time is 
put in looking for it. They work no longer than to nine 
o'clock at night, from daybreak. There ai-e ten machines 
in the room ; six are hired at two dollars a month. For 
tJie two shabby, smoke- begrimed i-ooms, one somewhat 
larger than ordinary, they pay twenty dollars a month. 
She does not complain, though " times are not what they 
were, and it costs a good deal to live." Eight dollars a 
week for the family of six and two boarders. How do 
they do it t She laughs, as she goes over the bill of fare, 
at the silly question : Bi-ead, fifteen cents a day, of milk 
two quarts a day at four cents a quart, one pound of meat 
for dinner at twelve (rents, butter one pound a ireek at 
" eight cents a quarter of a pound." Ctrffee, potatoes, and 
pickles complete the list. At the least calculation, prob- 
ably, this sweater's family hoaj-dsup thirty dollars a month, 
and in a few years will own a tenement somewhere and 
profit by the example set by their landlord in rent-col- 
lecting. It is the way the savings of Jewtown are uni- 
versally invested, and with the natural talent of its people 
for comtQercial speculation the investment is enormously 




On the next floor, in a dimly lighted room with a big 
red-hot stove to keep the pressing irons ready for use, is 
a family of mao, wife, tliree children, and a boarder. 
" Knee-pants " are made there too, of a stili lower grade. 
Thi'ee cents and a half is all he clears, says the man, and 
lies probably out of at least two cents. The wife makes a 
dollar and a half finishing, the man abont nine dollars at 
the machine. The boarder pays sixty-five cents a week. 
He is really only a lodger, getting his meals outside. The 
rent is two dollars and twenty-five cents a week, cost of 
living five dollars. Every floor lias at least two, some- 
times four, such shops. Here is one with a young family 
for which life is bright with promise. Ilnsband and wife 
work together; just now tlie latter, a comely young wom- 
an, is eating her dinner of dry bread and green pickles. 
Pickles are favorite food in Jewtown. They are filling, 
and keep the children from crying with hunger. Those 
who have stomachs like ostriches thrive in spite of them 
and grow sti'Ong — plain proof that tliey are good to eat. 
The rest ? " Well, they die," says our guide, dryly. No 
thought of untimely death comes to disturb this family 
with life all before it. In a few years the man will 
be a prosperous sweater. Already he employs an old 
man as ironer at three dollars a week, and a sweet- 
faced little Italian girl as finisher at a dollar and a 
Iialf. She is twelve, she says, and can neither read nor 
write; will probably never learn. How should slie? 
The family clears from ten to eleven dollars a week 
in brisk times, more than half of which goes into the 

A companion picture from across the hall. The man 
works on the machine for his sweater twelve hours a day, 
turning out three dozen "knee-pants," for which he re- 

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eeivea forty-two cents a dozen. The finisher who works 
with him gets ten, and the ironer eight cents a dozen; 
buttonholes are extra, at eight to ten cents a hundred. 
This operator has four children at liis home in Stanton 
Street, none old enough to work, and a sick wife. His 
rent is twelve dollars a month ; his wages for a hard 
week's work less than eight dollars. Sucli as he, with 
their consuming desire for money thus smothered, re- 
cruit the ranks of the anarchists, won over by the prom- 
ise of a general " divide ; " and an enlightened public 
sentiment turns up its nose at the vicious foreigner for 
whose perverted notions there is no room in tliis land of 

Turning the comer into Hester Street, we stumble upon 
a neat of cloak-makers in their busy season. Six months 
of the year the cloak-maker is idle, or nearly so. Now is 
his harvest. Seventy-five cents a cloak, all complete, is 
the price in tliis shop. Tlie cloak is of cheap plush, and 
might sell for eight or nine dollars over the store-counter. 
Seven dollars is the weekly wage of this man with wife 
and two children, and nine dollars and a half rent to pay 
per month. A boarder pays about a third of it. There 
was a time when he made ten dollars a week and thought 
himself rich. But wages have come down fearfully in 
the last two years. Think of it: "comedown" to this. 
The other cloak-makers aver that they can make as much 
as twelve dollars a week, when they are employed, by 
taking their work home and sewing till midnight. One 
exhibits his account-book with a Lndlow Street sweater. 
It shows that he and his partner, working on first-class gar- 
ments for a Broadway house in the four busiest weeks of 
the season, made together from $15.15 to $19.20 a week 
by striving from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., that is to say, from 

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$7.58 to $9.60 each." The sweater on tliis work probably 
made as much aa fifty per cent, at least on their labor. 
Not far away is a factory in a rear yard where tbe factory- 
inspector reports teams of tailors making men's coats at 
an average of twenty-seven cents a coat, all complete ex- 
cept buttons and button-holes. 

Turning back, we pass a towering double tenement in 
Ludlow Street, owned by a well-known Jewish liquor 
dealer and politician, a triple combination that bodes ill 
for his tenants. As a matter of fact, the ciieapest " apai-t- 
meiit," three rear rooms on the sixth floor, only one of 
which deserves the name, is rented for $13 a month. 
Here is a reminder of the Bend, a hallway turned into a 
shoemaker's shop. Two hallways side by side in ad- 
joining tenements would be sinful waste in Jewtown, 
when one would do as well by knocking a hole in tbe wall. 
But this shoemaker knows a trick the Italian's ingenuity 
did not suggest. He lias his " flat " as well as his shop 
there. A curtain hung back of his stool in the narrow 
passage Half conceals his bed that fills it entirely from 
wall to wall. To get into it he has to crawl over the foot- 
board, and he must come out the same way. Expedients 
more odd than this are born of the East Side crowding. 
In one of tbe houses we left, tbe coal-bin of a family 
on the fourth floor was on tbe roof of the adjoining tene- 
ment. A quarter of a ton of coal was being dumped 
there while we talked with tbe people. 

We liave reached Broome Street. The hum of industry 
in this six-story tenement on tbe eoraer leaves no doubt 
of the aspect Sunday wears within it. One flight up, we 
knock at the nearest door. The grocer, who keeps the 

* The strike of the cloakmakers last summer, that eniied in victory, 
raised, their wages considerahly, nt least for the time being. 



store, lives on the " stoop," the first floor in East Side 
parlance. In this room a suspender-maker sleeps and 
works with his family of wife and four children. For a 
wonder there are no boarders. His wife and eighteen 
years old daughter share in the work, but the girl's eyes 
are giving out from the strain. Three months in the 
year, when work is very brisk, the family makes by united 
efforts as higli as fourteen and fifteen dollars a week. The 
other nine months it averages from three to four dollars. 
The oldest boy, a young man, earns from four to six 
dollars in an Orchard Street factory, when lie has work. 
The rent is ten dollars a month for the room and a miser- 
able little coop of a bedroom wliere tlie old folks sleep. 
Tlie girl makes her bed on the lounge in the front room ; 
tlie big boys and the children sleep on tlie floor. Coal at 
ten cents a small pail, meat at twelve cents a pound, one 
and a half pound of butter a week at thirty-six cents, and 
a quarter of a pound of tea in tlie same space of time, are 
items of their house-keeping account as given by the 
daughter. Milk at four and five cents a quart, " accord- 
ing to quality." The sanitary authorities know what that 
means, know how miserably inadequate is the fine of fifty 
or a hundred dollars for the murder done in cold blood by 
the wretches who poison the babes of these tenements with 
the stuff that is half water, or swill. Their defence is 
that the demand is for " cheap milk." Scarcely a wonder 
tliat this suspender -maker will hardly be able to save up 
the dot for hie daughter, without which siie stands no 
cliauce of marrying in Jewtown, even with her face that 
would be pretty had it a healthier tinge. 

Up under the roof three men are making boys' jackets 
at twenty cents a piece, of which the sewer takes eight, 
the ironer three, the finisher five cents, and the button- 

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liole-maker two and a quarter, leaving a cent and three- 
quarters to pay for the drumming up, the fetcliing and 
bringing back of the goods. They bnnk together in a 
I'oom for wliich tliey pay eight dollars a month. All tln-ee 
are single here, that is : their wives are on the other side 
yet, waiting for them to earn enough to send for them. 
Tlieir breakfast, eaten at the work-bench, consists of a 
couple of rolls at a cent a piece, and a draught of water, 
milk when business has been very good, a square meal at 
noon in a restaurant, and the morning meal over again at 
night. This square meal, that is tlie evidence of a very 
libera! disposition on the part of the consumer, is an affair 
of more tlian ordinary note; it may be justly called an 
institution. I know of a couple of restaurants at the 
lower end of Orchard Street that are favorite I'esorts for 
the Polish Jews, who remember the injunction that the 
ox that treadeth out the corn shall not be muzzled. 
Being neighboi's, they are rivals of course, and cutting 
under. When I was last there one gave a dinner of soup, 
meat-stew, bread, pie, pickles, and a " schooner " of beer 
for thirteen cents ; the other charged fifteen cents for a 
similar dinner, but with two schoonei's of beer and a cigar, 
or a cigarette, as the extra inducement. Tiie two cents 
Iiad won the day, however, and the thirteen-cent restaurant 
did such a thriving business that it was about to spread 
out into the adjoining store to accommodate the crowds of 
customers. At this rate the lodger of Jewtown can "live 
like a lord," as he saya himself, for twenty-five cents a 
day, including the price of his bed, that ranges all the 
way fi-om thirty to forty and fifty cents a week, and save 
money, no matter what his earnings. He does it, too, so 
long as work is to be had at any price, and by the standard 
he sets up Jewtown must abide. 

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It has thousands upon thousands of lodgers who help to 
pay its extortionate rents. At night there is scarce a 
room in all the district that has not one or more of tliem, 
some above half a score, sleeping on cots, or on the floor. 
It is idle to speak of privacy in these " homes." The term 
carries no more meaning with it than would a lectnre on 
social ethics to an audience of Hottentots. The picture 
is not overdrawn. In fact, in presenting the home life 
of these people I have been at some pains to avoid the 
extreme of privation, taking the cases just as they came 
to hand on the safer middle-ground of average earnings. 
Yet even the direst apparent poverty in Jewtown, unless 
dependent on absolute lack of work, would, were the 
truth known, in nine cases out of ten have a silver lining 
in the shape of a margin in bank. 

These are the economical conditions that enable my 
manufactul-ing friend to boast that New York can " beat 
the world " on cheap clothing. In support of his claim 
he told me that a single Bowery firm last year sold fif- 
teen thousand suits at $1.95 that averaged in cost $1.12^. 
With the material at fifteen cents a yard, he said, chil- 
dren's suits of assorted sizes can be sold at wholesale for 
seventy-five cents, and boys' cape overcoats at the same 
price. They are the same conditions that have perplexed 
the committee of benevolent Hebrews in charge of Baron 
de Hirseh's mnnificent gift of ten thousand dollars a 
montliforthe relief of the Jewish poor in New York. 
To find proper channels through wiiich to pour this money 
so tiiat it shall effect its purpose without pauperizing, and 
without perpetuating the problem it is sought to solve, by 
attracting still greater swarms, is indeed no easy task. 
Colonization has not in the past been a success with these 
people. The great mass of tliem are too gregarious to take. 

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kindly to farming, and their strong commercial instinct 
hampers the experiment. To herd tliem in model tene- 
ments, though it relieve the physical suffering in a meas- 
ure, would be to treat a symptom of the disease rather 
than strike at its root, even if land could be got cheap 
enough where they gather to build on a sufficiently lai'ge 
scale to make the plan a success. Trade schools for man- 
ual training could hardly be made to reach the adults, who 
in addition would have to be supported for months while 
learning. For the young this device has proved most ex- 
cellent under the wise management of the United Hebrew 
Charities, an organization that gathers to its work the 
best thought and effort of many of our most public-spirit- 
ed citizens. One, or all, of these plans may be tried, 
probably will. I state but the misgivings as to the re- 
sult of some of the practical minds that have busied them- 
selves with tlie problem. Its keynote evidently is the 
ignorance of the inunigrants. They must be tanght the 
language of the country they have chosen as their home, 
as the iirst and most necessary step. Whatever may fol- 
low, that is essential, absolutely vital. That done, it may 
well be that the case in its new aspect will not be nearly 
so hard to deal with. 

Evening has worn into night as we take up our home- 
ward journey through the streets, now no longer silent. 
The thousands of lighted windows in the tenements glow 
like dull red eyes in a huge stone wall. From evei-y 
door mnttitndes of tired men and women pour forth for a 
half-hour's rest in the open air before sleep closes the eyes 
weary with incessant working. Crowds of half-naked 
children tumble in the street and on the sidewalk, or doze 
fretfully on the stone steps. As we stop in front of a 
tenement to watch one of these groups, a dirty baby in a 

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single brief garment — yet a sweet, humaa little baby de- 
spite its dirt and tatters — tumbles of£ the lowest step, rolls 
over once, clutches my leg with unconscious grip, and 
goes to sleep on the flagstones, its curly head pillowed on 
iny boot. 




EVIL as the part is which the tenement plays in Jew- 
town as the pretext for circumventing the law that 
was made to benefit and relieve the tenant, we have not 
far to go to find it in even a worse role. If the tenement 
is here continually dragged into the eye of public con- 
demnation and scorn, it is because in one way or another 
it is found directly responsible for, or intimately associ- 
ated with, three -fourths of the miseries of the poor. In 
the Bohemian quarter it is made the vehicle for enforcing 
upon a proud I'ace a slavery as real as any that ever dis- 
graced the Soutli. ]!sot content with simply robbing the 
tenant, the owner, in the dual capacity of landlord and 
employer, reduces liim to virtual serfdom by making his 
becoming his tenant, on such terms as he sees fit to make, 
the condition of employment at wages likewise of his own 
making. It does not Iielp the case that this landlord em- 
ployer, almost always a Jew, is frequently of the thrifty 
Polish race just described. 

Perhaps the Bohemian quarter is hardly the proper 
name to give to the colony, for though it has distinct 
boundaries it is scattered over a wide area on the East Side, 
in wedge-like streaks that relieve the monotony of the 
solid German population by their strong contrasts. The 
two races mingle no more on this side of the Atlantic 
than on the rugged slopes of the Bohemian mountains ; 

-^1^-0- Google- 


the eehoee of the thirty years' war ring in New York, after 
two centnries and a half, with aa fierce a hatred as the 
gigantic combat bred among the vanquialied Czeelis. A 
chief reason for this is doubtless the complete isolation of 
the Bohemian immigrant. Several causes operate to bring 
this about : his singularly harsh and unattractive language, 
which he can neither easily himself unlearn nor impart 
to others, his stubborn pride of race, and a popular pre- 
judice which has forced upon him the unjust stigma of a 
disturber of the public peace and an enemy of organized 
labor. I greatly mistrust that the Bohemian on our sliores 
is a much-abused man. To his traducer, who casts np an- 
archism against him, he replies that the last census (ISSO) 
shows his people to have the fewest criminals of at! in pro- 
portion to numbers In New York a Bohemian criminal 
is such a larity that the ease of two firebugs of several 
years ago is remembered with damaging distinctness. 
The accusation that he lives like the " rat " he is, cutting 
down wages by hia underpaid labor, he throws back in the 
teeth of tlie trades unions with the counter-charge that 
they are the first cause of his attitude to the labor ques- 

A little way above Houston Street the first of his 
colonies is encountered, in Fifth Street and thereabouts. 
Then for a mile and a half scarce a Bohemian is to be 
found, until Thirty-eighth Street is reached. Fifty-fourth 
and Seventy-third Streets in their turn are the centres of 
populona Bohemian settlements. The location of the 
cigar factories, upon which he depends for a living, de- 
termines his choice of home, though {here is less choice 
about it than with any other class in the community, save 
perhaps the colored people. Probably more than half of 
all the Bohemians in this city are cigarmakera, and it is 

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the herding of these in great numbers in the so-called 
tenement factories, where the cheapest grade of work is 
done at the lowest wages, that constitutes at once their 
greatest hardship and the eiiief grudge of other workmen 
against them. The manufacturer who owns, sav, from 
three or four to a dozen or more tenements contiguous 
to his shop, fills them np with these people, charging them 
outrageous rents, and demanding often even a preliminary 
deposit of five dollars *' key money ; " deals thein out 
tobacco by the week, and devotes the rest of his ener- 
gies to the paring down of wages to within a peg or two of 
the point where tiie tenant rebels in desperation. When 
he does rebel, he is given the alternative of submission, 
or eviction with entire loss of employment. His needs 
determine the issue. Usually he is not in a position to 
hesitate long. Unlike the Polish Jew, whose example of 
untiring industry he emulates, he has seldom much laid 
up against a rainy day. lie is fond of a glass of beer, and 
likes to live as well ae his means will permit. The shop 
triumphs, and fetters more galling than ever are foi'ged 
for the tenant. In the opposite ease, the newspapers have 
to record the throwing upon the street of a small army of 
people, with pitiful cases of destitution and family miseiy. 
Men, women and children work together seven days in 
the week in these cheerless tenements to make a living 
for the family, from the break of day till far into the 
night. Often the wife is the original cigannaker from 
the old home, the husband having adopted her trade here 
as a matter of necessity, hecause, knowing no word of 
English, he could get no other work. As they state the 
cause of the bitter hostility of the trades unions, she was 
the primary bone of contention in the day of the early 
Bohemian immigration. The unions refused to admit the 

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women, and, as the support of the family depeoded upon 
her to a large extent, 8u<!h terms as were offered Jiad to 
be accepted. The raaiiiifacturer has ever since industri- 
ously fanned the antagonism between the unions and liis 
Jiands, for his own advantage. Tiie victory rests with him, 
since the Court of Appeals decided that the law, passed a 
few years ago, to prohibit cigarmaking in tenements was 
unconstitutional, and thus put an end to the struggle. 
While it lasted, all sorts of frightful stories were told of 
the shocking conditions under which people lived and 
worked in these tenements, from a sanitary point of view 
especially, and a general impression survives to this day 
that tliey are particularly desperate. The Board of 
Health, after a careful canvass, did not find them so then. 
I am satisfied from personal inspection, at a much later 
day, guided in a number of instances by the union cigar- 
makers themselves to the tenements which they consid- 
ered the worst, that tlie accounts were greatly exagger- 
ated. Doubtless the people ai'C poor, in many cases very 
poor ; but they are not uncleanly, ratlier the reverse ; 
they live much better than the clothing-makers in tiie 
Tenth Ward, and in spite of their sallow look, that may 
be doe to the all-pervading smell of tobacco, they do not 
appear to be less healthy than other in-door workers. I 
found on my tours of investigation several cases of con- 
sumption, of which one at least was said by the doctor to 
be due to the constant inhalation of tobacco fumes. But an 
examination of the death records in the Health Depart- 
ment does not support the claim that the Bohemian cigar- 
makers are peculiarly prone to that disease. On the con- 
trary, the Bohemian percentage of deaths from consump- 
tion appears quite low. Tliis, however, is a line of scien- 
tific inquiry which I leave to others to pursue, along with 

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the more involved problem whether the falling off in the 
number of eliildren, sometimes quite noticeable in tlie 
Bohemian settlements, is, as has been suggested, depend- 
ent upon tlie cjiaraeter of the parents' work. The sore 
grievances 1 found were the miserable wages and the 
enormous rents exacted for the minimum of accommoda- 
tion. And surely these stand for enough of suffering. 

Take a row of honses in East Tenth Street as an 
instance. They contained thirty-five families of cigar- 
makers, with probably not half a dozen persons in the 
whole lot of them, outside of the children, who could 
speak a word of English, though many had been in the 
country half a lifetime. This room with two windows 
giving on the street, and a rear attachment without 
windows, called a bedroom by courtesy, is rented at 
$12.25 a month. In the front room man and wife work 
at the bench from six in the morning till nine at night. 
They make a team, stripping the tobacco leaves together ; 
then he makes the filler, and she rolls the wrapper on and 
finishes the cigar. For a thousand they receive $3,75, 
and can turn out together tlii'ee thousand cigars a week. 
The point has been reached where the rebellion comes in, 
and the workers in these tenements are just now on a 
strike, demanding $5.00 and $5.50 for their work. The 
manufacturer having refused, they are expecting hourly to 
be served with notice to quit their homes, and the going 
of a stranger among them excites their resentment, until 
his errand is explained, While we are in the house, the 
ultimatum of the "boss" is received. He will give $3.75 
a thousand, not another cent. Our host is a man of seem- 
ing intelligence, yet he has been nine years in Kew York 
and knows neither English nor German, Three bright 
little children play about the floor. 

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His neighbor on the same floor has been here fifteen 
years, -but shakes his head when asked if he can speak 
English. He answers in a few broken syllables when ad-. 
dressed in German. With $11.75 rent to pay for hbe ac- 
commodation, he has tiie advantage of his oldest boy's work 
besides his wife's at the bench. Three properly make a 
team, and these three can turn out four thousand cigars a 
week, at $3,75. This Bohemian has a large family ; there 
are four children, too small to work, to be eared for, A 
comparison of the domestic bills of fare in Tenth and in 
Lndlow Streets results iti the discovery that tliis Bohem- 
ian's butcher's bill for the week, with meat at twelve cents 
a pound as in Ludlow Street, is from two dollars and a 
half to three dollars. The Polish Jew fed as big a family 
oil one pound o£ meat a day. The difference proves to 
be typical. Here is a snito of three rooms, two dark, three 
flights up. The ceiling is partly down in one of the rooms. 
" It is three months since we asked the landlord to fix it," 
says the oldest son, a very intelligent lad who has learned 
English in the evening school. His father has not had 
that advantage, and has sat at his bench, deaf and dnmb to 
the world about him except his own, for six years. He 
has improved his time and become an expert at his trade. 
fatlier, mother and son together, a foil team, make from 
fifteen to sixteen dollars a week, 

A man with venerable beard and keen eyes answers our 
questions through an interpreter, in the next lionse. Yery 
few brighter faces would be met in a day's walk among 
American mechanics, yet he has in nine years learned no 
syllable of English. German he probably does not want 
to learn. His story supplies the explanation, as did the 
stories of the others. In all that time he has been at 
work' grubbing to earn bread. Wife and he by constMit 



labor make three thousand eigare a week, earning $11.25 
wlien there is no lack of material ; when in winter they 
receive from the manufacturer tobacco for onlj two thon- 
sand, the rent of $10 for two rooms, practically one with a 
dark alcove, liaa nevertheless to be paid in full, and six 
months to be fed. He was a blacksmith in the old coun- 
try, but cannot work at Iiia trade here beeanse he does not 
understand " Engliska." If he could, he says, witii a bright 
look, he could do better work than he sees done here. It 
would seem happiness to him to knock off at 6 o'clock in- 
stead of working, as he now often has to do, till midnight. 
But how? lie knows of no Bohemian blacksmith who 
can understand him; lie should starve. Here, with hia 
wife, he can niako a living at least. " Aye," says she, turn- 
ing, from listening, to her household duties, " it would be 
nice for sure to have father work at Jiis trade." Then 
what a home she could make for them, and how happy 
they would be. Here is an imattainable ideal, indeed, 
oE a workman in the most prosperons city in the world ! 
There is genuine, if nnspoken, pathos in the soft tap she 
gives her husband's hand as she goes about her work with 
a half -suppressed little sigh. 

The very ash-baiTels tiiat stand in front of the big rows 
of tenements in Seventy-first and Seventy-third Streets 
advertise the business that is carried on within. They are 
filled to the brim with the stems of stripped tobacco leaves. 
The rank smell that waited for ns on the corner of the 
block follows us into the hallways, penetrates every nook 
and cranny of the houses. As in the settlement farther 
down town, every room here has its work-bench with its 
stumpy knife and queer pouch of bed-tick, worn brown 
and greasy, fastened in front the whole length of the 
bench to receive the scraps of waste. This landlord-em- 




ployer at all events gives three rooma for $12.50, if two 
be dark, one wliolly and the other getting some light 
from the front room. The mother of the three bare-footed 
little children we met on the stairs was taken to the hos- 
pital the other day when she could no longer work. She 
will never come ont alive. There is no waste in these ten- 
ements. Lives, like clothes, are worn through and out be- 
fore pnt aside. Her place at the bench is taken already 
by another who divides with the head of the household 
his earnings of $15,50 a week. He has just eoine out eue- 
cesaful of a strike, that bronght the pay of these tene- 
ments np to $4.50 per thousand cigars. Notice to quit 
had already been served on them, when the employer 
decided to give in, frightened by the prospective loss of 
rent. Asked how long he works, the man says : " from 
they can see till bed-time." Bed-time proves to be eleven 
o'clock. Seventeen hours a day, seven days in the week, 
at thirteen cents an hour for the two, six cents and a half 
for each ! Good average earnings for a tenement-house 
cigarmaker in summer. In winter it is at least one- 
fourth less. In spite of it all, the rooms are cleanly kept. 
From the bedroom farthest back tlie woman brings out 
a pile of moist tobacco-leaves to be stripped. They are 
kept there, under cover lest they dry and crack, from Fri- 
day to Friday, when an accounting is made and fresh 
supplies given out. The people sleep there too, but the 
smell, offensive to tlte unfamiliar nose, does not bother 
them. They are used to it. 

In a house around the corner that is not a factory-tene- 
ment, lives now the cigarmaker I spoke of as suffering 
from consumption which the doctor said was due to the 
tobacco-fumes. Perhaps the lack of healthy exercise had 
as much to do with it. His case is interesting from its 


own stand-point. He too is one with a — for a Bohemian 
— large family. Six cliildren sit at his table. 'By t]-ade 
a shoemaker, for thirteen years he helped his wife make 
cigars in the manufacturer's tenement. She was a very 
good hand, and nntil liis health gave out two years ago they 
were able to make from $17 to $25 a week, by lengthen- 
ing the day at both ends. Now that he can work no 
more, and the family under the doctor's orders has moved 
away from the smell of tobacco, the burden of its support 
has fallen upon her alone, for none of the children is old 
enough to help, Slie has work in the shop at eight dol- 
lars a week, and this most go round ; it is all there is. 
Happily, this being a tenement for revenue only, unmixed 
with cigars, the rent is cheaper : seven dollars for two 
bright rooms on the top floor. No housekeeping is at- 
tempted. A woman in Seventy-second Street supplies 
their meals, which the wife and mother fetches in a 
basket, her husband being too weak. Breakfast of coffee 
and hard-tack, or black bread, at twenty cents for the 
whole eight ; a good many, the little woman says with a 
brave, patient smile, and there is seldom anything to 
spare, but——. The invaHd is listening, and the sentence 
remains unfinished. What of dinner? One of the chil- 
dren brings it from tlie cook. Oh ! it is a good dinner, 
meat, soup, greens and bread, all for thirty cents. It is 
the principal famCy meal. Does she come home for din- 
ner? No ; she cannot leave tlie shop, but gets a bite at 
her bench. The question : A bite of what ? seems as mer- 
ciless as the surgeon's knife, and she winces under it as 
one siirinks from physical pain. Bread, then. Eat at 
night they all have supper together — sausage and bread. 
For ten cents they can eat all they want. Can they not ? 
she says, stroking the hair of the little boy, at her knee ; 

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his eyes glisten hungrily at the thought, as he nods stout- 
ly in support o£ his mother. Only, she adds, the week 
the rent is due, they have to shorten rations to pay the 

But what of his being an Anarchist, this Bohemian — an 
infidel — I hear somebody say. Almost one might be per 
suaded by such facts as these — and tliey are everyday 
facts, not fancy — ^to retort : what more natural ? "With 
every hand raised against him in the old land and the 
new, in the land of his hoped-for freedom, what more 
logical than that his should be turned against society that 
seems to exist only for his oppression ? But the charge 
is not iialf true. Naturally the Bohemian loves peace, as 
he loves music and song. As someone has said : He 
does not seek war, but when attacked knows better how to 
die than how to surrender. The Czech is the Irishman 
of Central Europe, with all his genius and his strong pas- 
sions, with the same bitter traditions of laud lord -robbery, 
perpetuated here where he thought to forget them ; like 
liim ever and on principle in the opposition, "agin the 
government" wherever he goes. Among such a people, 
ground by poverty until their songs have died in curses 
upon their oppressors, hopelessly isolated and ignorant of 
our language and our laws, it would not be hard for bad 
men at any time to lead a few astray. And this is what 
has been done. Yet, even with the occasional noise made 
by the few, the criminal statistics already alluded to quite 
dispose of the charge that they incline to turbulence and 
riot. So it is with the infidel propaganda, the legacy per- 
haps of the fierce contention through hundreds of years 
between Catholics and Protestants on Bohemia's soil, of 
bad faith and savage persecutions in the name of the 
Christians' God that disgrace its history. The Bohemian 

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clergyman, who spoke for hie people at the Christian Con- 
ference held in Chickering Hall two years ago, took even 
stronger ground. " They are Koman Catholics by birth, 
infidels by necessity, and Protestants by history and in- 
clination," he said. Yet he added his testimony in the 
same breath to the fact that, tliough the Freethinkers had 
started two schools in the immediate neighborhood of his 
church to counteract its influence, his flock had grown 
in a few years from a mere handful at the start to propor- 
tions far beyond his hopes, gathering in both Anarchists 
and Freethinkers, and making good church members of 

Thus the whole matter resolves itself once more into a 
question of education, all the more urgent because these 
people are poor, miserably poor almost to a man. " There 
is not," said one of them, who knew thoroughly what he 
was speaking of, " there is not one of them all, who, if iie 
were to sell all he was worth to-morrow, would have 
money enough to buy a hoase and lot in the country." 

;v Goc); ; ;lc 



THE color line must be drawn through the tenements to 
give the picture its proper tiiiading. The landlord 
does the drawing, does it with an absence of pretence, a 
frankness of despotism, that ie notliing if not brutal. 
The Czar of all the Ruasias is not more absohite upon his 
own soil than the Kew Yoi'k landlord in his dealings with 
colored tenants. Where he perujits them to live, they 
go ; where he shuts the door, stay out. By his grace they 
exist at all in certain localities; his ukase banishes them 
from others. He accepts the responsibility, when laid 
at his door, with unruffled complacency. It is business, 
he will tell you. And it is. He makes tlie prejudice in 
which he traffics pay him well, and that, as he thinks it 
quite superfluous to tell you, is what he is there for. 

That his pencil does not make quite as black a mark as 
it did, that the hand that wields it does not bear down as 
hard as only a short half dozen years ago, is the hopeful 
sign of an awakening public conscience under the stress of 
which the line shows signs of wavering. But for this tlie 
landlord deserves no credit. It has come, is coming about 
despite him. The line may not be wholly effaced while 
the name of the negro, alone among the world's races, is 
spelled with a small n. Natural selection will have more 
or less to do beyond a doubt in every age with dividing 
the races ; only so, it may be, can they work out together 



their highest destiny. Bat with the deapotisin that de- 
liberately assigns to the defenceless Black tlie lowest level 
for the purpose o£ robbing liim there that has nothing to 
do. Of such slavery, different only in degree from the 
other kind that held him as a chattel, to be sold or bar- 
tered at the will of his master, this century, if signs fail 
not, will sec the end in New York, 

Ever since the wur- New York has been receiving the 
ovei-flow of colored population from the Soutliern cities. 
In the last decade this migration has grown to such pro- 
portions that it is estimated that our Blacks have quite 
doubled in number since the Tenth Census. Whether the 
exchange has been of advantage to the negro may well be 
questioned. Trades of which he had practical control in 
his Soutiiern home are not open to him here. I know that 
it may be answered that tiiere is no industrial proscription 
of color ; that it is a matter of choice. Perhaps bo. At 
all events he does not choose then. How many colored 
carpenters or masons has anyone seen at work in New 
York ? In the South there are enough of them and, if 
the testimony of the most intelligent of their people is 
worth anything, plenty of them liave come here. Aa a 
matter of fact the colored man takes in New York, with- 
out a struggle, the lower level of menial service for which 
his past traditions and natural love of ease perhapa aa yet 
fit him best. Even the colored barber ia rapidly getting 
to be a tiling of the past. Along shore, at any unskilled 
labor, he works unmolested ; but he does not appear to 
prefer the job. His sphere thus defined, he naturally 
takes his stand among the poor, and in the homes of the 
poor. Until very recent times — the years since a change 
was wrought can be counted on the fingers of one hand — 
he was practically restricted in the choice of a home to a 

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narrow section on the West Side, that nevertheless had a 
social top and bottom to it — the top in the tenements on 
the hne of Seventh Avenue as far north as Tliirty-second 
Street, wliere he was allowed to occupy the houses of un- 
savory reputation which the police had cleared and for 
which decent wliite tenants could not be found ; tlie bot- 
tom ill the vile rookeries of Thompson Street and South 
Fifth Avenue, the old " Africa" that is now fast becom- 
ing a modern Italy. To-day there are black colonies in 
Yorkville and Morrisania, Tlie encroachment of business 
and the Italian below, and the swelling of the population 
above, have been the chief agents in working out his sec- 
ond emancipation, a very real one, for with his cutting 
loose from the old tenements there has come a distinct 
and gratifying improvement in the tenant, that argnes 
louder than theories or speeches the influence of vile sur- 
roundings in debasing the man. The colored citizen 
whom this year's census man found in hia Ninety-ninth 
Street " flat " is a very different individual from the " nig- 
ger" his predecessor counted in the bJack-and-tan slums 
of Thompson and Sullivan Streets. There is no more 
clean and orderly community in New York than the new 
settlement of colored people that is growing up on the 
East Side from Yorkville to Harlem, 

Cleanliness is the characteristic of the negro in his new 
surroundings, as it was his virtue in the old. In this re- 
spect he is immensely the superior of the lowest of the 
whites, the Italians and the Polish Jews, below whom he 
has l>een classed in the past in the tenant scale. Never- 
theless, he has always had to pay higher rents than even 
these for tlie poorest and most stinted rooms. The ex- 
ceptions I have come across, in which the rents, though 
high, have seemed more nearly on a level with what was 

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asked for the same number and size of rooms in the av- 
erage tenement, were in the case of tumble-down rookeries 
in which no one else would live, and were always coupled 
with the condition that tiie landlord should " make no 
repairs." It can readily be seen that his proiits were 
scarcely curtailed by his "humanity." The reason ad- 
vanced for this systematic robbery is that white people 
will not live in the same house with colored tenants, or 
even in a house recently occupied by negroes, and that 
consequently its selling value is injured. Tiie prejudice 
undoubtedly exists, but it is not lessened by the house 
agents, who have set up the maxim " once a colored house, 
always a colored house." 

There is method in the maxim, as shown by an inquiry 
made last year by the Rea^ Estate Hecord. It proved 
agents to be practically unanimous in the endorsement of 
the negro as a clean, orderly, and " profitable " tenant. 
Here is the testimony of one of the largest real estate 
iirms in the city : " We would rather have negro tenants 
in our poorest class of tenements than the lower grades of 
foreign white people. We find the former cleaner than 
the latter, and they do not destroy the property so much. 
We also get higher prices. We have a tenement on Nine- 
teenth Street, where we get $10 for two rooms which we 
could not get more than $7.50 for from white tenants pre- 
viously. We have a four-story tenement on our books on 
Thirty-third Street, between Sixth and Seventh Avenues, 
with four rooms per floor — a parlor, two bedrooms, and 
a kitchen. We get $20 for the first floor, $34 for the 
second, $23 for the third and $20 for the fourth, in ail 
$87 or $1,044 per annum. The size of the building is 
only 21-1-55." Another firm declared that in a specified 
instance they had saved fifteen to twenty per cent, on the 




gross rentals since they changed from white to colored 
tenants. Still another gave the following case of a front 
and rear tenement that had formerly been occupied by 
tenants of a "lovv European type," who had been turned 
out on account of filthy habits and poor pay. The ne- 
groes proved cleaner, better, and steadier tenants. In- 
stead, however, of having their rents reduced in conse- 
quence, the comparison stood as follows : 

Rents ander White Tenants. 

Rents under Colored Tenants. 
Per moDi 
Front— 1st floor (atore, vtc.)..,,. 

An increased rental of $17 per month, or $204 a year, 
and an advance of nearly thirteen and one-half per cent. 
on tlie gross rental " in favor " of the colored tenant. 
Profitable, surely ! 

I have quoted these cases at length in order to let in light 
on the quality of this landlord despotism that baa pur- 
posely confused the public mind, and for its own selfish ends 
is propping up a waning pi-ejudice. It will be cause for 
congratulation if indeed its time has come at last. Witliin 
a year, I am told by one of the most intelligent and best 
informed of our colored citizens, there has been evidence, 
simultaneous with the colored hegira from the low down- 
town tenements, of a movement toward less exorbitant 
rents. I cannot pass from this subject without adding a 
leaf from my own experience that deserves a place in this 

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record, though, for the credit of humanity, I hope as an 
extreme case. It was last Christmas tlmt I had oceaEion to 
visit the home of an old colored woman in Sixteenth 
Street, as the ahnoner of generous friends out of town 
who wished me to buy her a Christmas dinner. The old 
woman lived in a wretched shanty, occupying two mean, 
dilapidated rooms at the top of a sort of lien-ladder that 
went by the name of stairs. For these she paid ten dol- 
lars a month out of her hard-earned wages as a scrub- 
woman. I did not find her in and, being informed that 
she was " at the agent's," went around to hunt her up. 
The agent's wife appeared, to I'oport tiiat Ann was out. 
Being in a hurry it occurred to me that I might save time 
by making her employer the purveyor of my friend's 
bounty, and proposed to entrust the money, two dollars, 
to her to be expended for Old Ann's benefit. She fell in 
with the suggestion at once, and confided to me in the full- 
ness of her heart that she liked the plan, inasmuch as " I 
generally find her a Christmas dinner myself, and this 

money — she owes Mr. (her husband, the agent) a lot 

of rent." N"eedle8s to state that there was a change of 
programme then and there, and that Ann was saved from 
the sort of Christmas cheer that woman's charity would 
have spread before her. When I had the old soul com- 
fortably installed in her own den, with a chicken and 
" fixin's " and a bright fire in her stove, I asked her how 
much she owed of h<r rent. Her answer was that she 
did not really owe anything, her month not being quite 
up, but that the amount yet unpaid was— two dollars ! 

Poverty, abuse, and Injustice alike the negro accepts 
with imperturbable cheerfulness. His philosophy is of 
the kind that has no room for repining. Whether he 
lives in an Eighth Ward barrack or in a tenement with a 



brown-stone front and pretensions to the title of " flat," 
he looks at the sunny side of life and enjoys it. He loves 
fine clothes and good living a good deal more than he 
does a bank account. The proverbial rainy day it would 
be rank ingratitude, from his point of view, to look for 
when the sun shines unclouded in a clear skj. His home 
surroundings, except when he is utterly depraved, reflect 
his blithesome temper. Tlie poorest negro housekeepei's 
room in New York is bright witli gaily-colored prints of 
his beloved "Abe Linkum," General Grant, President 
Garfield, Mrs. Cleveland, and other national celebrities, 
and cheery with flowers and singing birds. In the art of 
putting the best foot foremost, of disguising his poverty 
by making a little go a long way, our negro has no equal. 
When a fair share of prosperity is his, he knows how to 
make life and home very pleasant to those about him. 
Pianos and parlor furniture abound in the uptown homes 
of colored tenants and give them a very prosperous air. 
But even where the wolf howls at the door, he makes a 
bold and gorgeous front. The amount of "style" dis- 
played on fine Sundays on Sixth and Seventh Avenues by 
colored holiday-makers would turn a pessimist black with 
wrath. The negro's great ambition is to rise in the social 
scale to which his color has made him a stranger and an 
outsider, and he is quite willing to accept the shadow for 
the substance where that is the best lie can get. The 
claw-hammer coat and white tie of a waiter in a first-class 
summer hotel, with the chance of taking his ease in six 
months of winter, are to him the next best thing to min- 
gling with the white quality he serves, on equal terms. 
His festive gatherings, pre-eminently his calce-walks, at 
which a sugared and frosted cake is the proud prize of the 
couple with the most aristocratic step and carriage, are com- 

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ic mixtures of elaborate ceremonial and tlie joyous aban- 
don of the natural man. With al! his ludicrous incongrui- 
ties, his sensuality and his lack of moral accountability, his 
superstition and other faults that are the effect of tempera- 
ment and of centuries of slavery, he has his eminently 
good points. He is loyal to the backbone, proud of being 
an American and of his new-found citizenship. He is at 
least as easily moulded for good as for evil. His churches 
are crowded to the doors on Sunday nights when the col- 
ored colony turns out to worsiiip. His people own church 
property in this city upon which they liave paid half a 
million dollars out of the depth of their poverty, with 
comparatively little assistance from their white brethren. 
He is both willing and anxious to learn, and his intellect- 
ual status is distinctly improving. If his emotions are 
not very deeply rooted, they are at least sincere while 
they last, and until the tempter gets the upper hand again. 
Of all the temptations that beset him, the one that 
troubles him and the police most is his passion for gam- 
bling. The game of policy is a kind of unlawful penny 
lottery specially adapted to Iiis means, but patronized ex- 
tensively by poor wiiite players as well. It is the mean- 
est of swindles, but reaps for its backers rich fortunes 
wherever colored people congregate. Between the for- 
tune-teller and the policy shop, closely allied frauds al- 
ways, the wages of many a hard day's work are wasted 
by the negro ; but the loss causes him few regrets. Pen- 
niless, but with undaunted faith in his ultimate " luck," 
he looks forward to the time When he shall once more be 
able to take a hand at " beating policy," When periodi- 
cally the negro's lucky numbers, 4r-lX-4A, come out on 
the slips of the alleged daily drawings, that are supposed 
to be held in some far-off Western town, intense excite- 



ment reigns in Thompson Street and along the Avenue, 
where someone is always the winner. An immense im- 
petus is given then to the bogus business that has no ex- 
istence outside of the cigar stores and candy shops where 
it hides from the law, save in some cunning Bowery 
"broker's" back office, where the slips are printed and 
the " winnings " apportioned daily with due regard to the 
backer's interests. 

It is a question whether " Africa " has been improved by 
the advent of the Italian, with the tramp from the Mul- 
berry Street Bend in his train. The moral turpitude of 
Thompson Street has been notorious for years, and the 
mingling of the three elements does not seem to have 
wrouglit any change for the better. The border-land 
where the white and black races meet in common de- 
bauch, the aptly-named black-and-tan saloon, has never 
been debatable ground from a moral stand-point. It has 
always been the worst of the desperately bad. Than this 
commingling of tiie utterly depraved of both sexes, white 
and black, on such ground, there can be no greater abomina- 
tion. Usually it is some fon! cellar dive, perhaps run by 
the political " leader " of the district, who is " in with " 
the police. In any event it gathers to itself all the law- 
breakers and all the human wrecks within reach. "VVlien 
a fight breaks ont during the dance a dozen razors are 
handy in as many boot-legs, and there is always a job for 
the snrgeon and the ambulance. The black "tough" is 
as handy with the razor in a fight as liis peaceably inclined 
brother is with it in pursuit of his honest trade. As the 
Chinaman hides his knife in his sleeve and the Italian his 
stiletto in the bosom, so the negro goes to the ball with a 
razor in his boot-leg, and on occasion does as much execn- 
■ tion with it as both of the others together. More than 

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1;j8 how the OTHEK HALF LIVES. 

three -fourths of the business tlie police have with tlie col- 
ored people in New York arises in the black-aud-tan dis- 
trict, now no longer fairly representative of their color. 

I have touched briefly upon such facta in the negro's life 
aa may serve to throw light on the social condition of his 
people in New York. If, when the account is made np 
between the races, it shall be claimed that he falls short of 
the result to be expected from twenty-five years of free- 
dom, it may be well to turn to the other side of the ledger 
and see how much of the blame is borne by the prejudice 
and greed that have kept him from rising nnder a burden 
of responsibility to which he could hardly be equal. And 
in this view he may be seen to have advanced much 
farther and faster than before suspected, and to promise, 
after all, with fair treatment, quite as well aa the rest of 
us, his white-skinned fellow-citizens, had any right to ex- 

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THERE is another line not always so readily drawn in 
the tenements, yet the real boundary line of tiie Other 
Half : the one that defines the " flat." The law does not 
draw it at all, accounting all flats tenements without dis- 
tinction. The health officer draws it from observation, 
lumping all those which in his judgment have nothing, or 
not enough, to give them claim ujwn tiie name, with the 
common herd, and his way is, perhaps, on the whole, the 
sorest and best. The outside of the building gives no 
valuable clew. Brass and brown-stone go well sometimes 
with dense crowds and dark and dingy rooms ; but the 
first attempt to enter helps draw the line with tolerable 
distinctness. A locked door is a" strong point in favor of 
the flat. It argues that the first step has been taken to 
secure privacy, the absence of which is tlie chief curse of 
the tenement. Behind a locked door the hoodlum is not 
at home, unless tiiere be a jailor in place of a janitor to 
guard it. Not that the janitor and the doorbell are in- 
fallible. There inay be a tenement behind a closed door ; 
but never a " flat " without it. The hall that is a high- 
way for all the world by night and by day is the tene- 
ment's proper badge. The Other Half ever receives with 
open doors. 

With this introduction we shall not seek it long any- 
where in the city. Below Houston Street the door-bell in 


our age is as extinct as thu dodo. East of Second Avenue, 
and west of Ivinili Avenue as far up as tlie Park, it is 
practically an unknown institution. Tiie nearer the river 
and the gi-eat workahops the more numerous the tene- 
ments. The kind of work carried on in any locality to a 
large extent determines their character. Skilled and well- 
paid labor puts its stamp on a tenement even in spite of 

the open door, and usually soon supplies the miBsing bell. 
Gas-houses, slaughter-houses and the docks, that attract 
the roughest crowds and support the vilest saloons, invari- 
ably form slum-centres. The city is full of such above 
tlie line of Fourteenth Street, that is erroneously supposed 
by some to fence off the good from the bad, separate the 
chaff from the wheat. There is nothing below that line 
that can outdo in wickedness Hell's Kitchen, in the region 

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o£ three-cent whiskey, or its counterpoise at the other end 
of Thirty-ninth Street, on the East River, the home of Jhe 
infamous Rag Gang. Cherry Street is not "tongher" 
than Battle Row in East Sixty-third Street, or " the vil- 
lage "at Twenty-ninth Street and First Avenue, where 
stores of broken bricks, ammunition for the nightly con- 
flicts with the police, are part of the regulation outfit of 
every tenement. The Mulberry Street Bend is scarce 
dirtier than Little Italy in Harlem. Even across the Har- 
lem River, Frog Hollow challenges the admiration of the 
earlier slums for the boldness and pernicious activity of 
its home gang. There are enough of these sore spots. 
We shall yet have occasion to look into the social con- 
ditions of some of them ; were I to draw a picture of 
them here as they are, the subject, I fear, would outgrow 
alike the limits of this book and the reader's patience. 

It is true that they tell only one side of the story ; tliat 
there is another to tell. A story of thousands of devoted 
lives, laboring earnestly to make the most of their scant 
opportunities for good ; of heroic men and women striv- 
ing patiently against fearful odds and by their very cour- 
age coming off victors in the battle with the tenement ; of 
womanhood pure and nndefiled. That it should blossom 
in such an atmosphere is one of the unfathomable myste- 
ries of life. And yet it is not an uncommon thing to find 
sweet and innocent girls, singularly untouched by the evil 
around them, true wives and faithful mothers, literally 
" like jewels in a swine's snout," in the worst of the in- 
famous barracks. It is the experience of all who have in- 
telligently observed this side of life in a great city, not to 
be explained — unless on the theory of my friend, the priest 
in the Mulberry Street Bend, that inherent purity revolts 
instinctively from the naked brutality of vice as seen in 

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tlie slums — but to be thaukfnlly accepted as the one gleam 
of liope in an otlierwise hopeless desert. 

But the relief is not great. In the dull content of life 
bred on the tenement -ho use dead level there is little tore- 
deem it, or to calm apprehension for a society that has 
nothing better to offer its toilers ; while the patient efforts 
of the lives finally attuned to It to render the situation 
tolerable, and the very success of these efforts, serve only 
to bring out in stronger contrast tlie general gloom of the 
picture by showing how much farther they might have 
gone with half a clianee. Go into any of the "respect- 
able " tenement neighborhoods — the fact that there are 
not more than two saloons on the corner, nor over three 
or four in the block will serve as a fair guide — where live 
the great body of hard-working Irish and German immi- 
grants and their descendants, who accept naturally the con- 
ditions of tenement life, because for them there is nothing 
else in New York ; be with and among its people until 
you understand their ways, their aims, and the quality of 
their ambitions, and unless you can content yourself with 
tiie scriptural promise that the poor we shall have alwaj's 
with HS, or with the menagerie view that, if fed, they have 
no cause of complaint, you shall come away agreeing with 
me that, liumanly speaking, life there does not seem 
worth the living. Take at random one of these uptown 
tenement blocks, not of the woi-st nor yet of the most 
prosperous kind, within hail of what the newspapers would 
call a "fine residential section." These houses were built 
since the last cholera scare made people willing to listen 
to reason. Tiie block is not like the one over on the 
East Side in which I actually lost my way once. There 
were thirty or forty rear houses in the heart of it, three 
or four on every lot, set at all sorts of angles, with odd, 

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winding passages, or no passage at all, only " runways " 
for the thieves and toughs of the neighborhood. These 
yards are clear. Tiiere ia air there, and it is abont all 
there is. The view between brick walls outside is t]iat of 
a stony street ; inside, of rows of unpainted board fences, 
a bewildering maze of clothes-posts and lines ; underfoot, a 
desert of brown, hard-baked soil from which every blade 
of grass, every stray weed, every speek of green, has been 

trodden out, as must inevitably be every gentle thought 
and aspiration above the mere wants of the body in those 
whose moral natures such home surroundings are to nour- 
ish. In self-defence, yon know, all life eventually accom- 
modates itself to its environment, and human life is no 
exception. Within the house there is nothing to supply 
the want thus ieft unsatisfied. Tenement-houses have 
no jesthetie resources. If any are to be brought to bear 
on them, they must come from the outside. There is the 
common hall with doors opening softly on every landing 

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as the strange step is lieard on the stairs, the air-eliaf t that 
seems always so hnsy letting out foul stencltes from below 
that it has no time to earn its name by bringing down 
fresL air, the squeaking pumps that hold no water, and 
the rent that is never lees than one week's wages out of 
the four, quite as often half of the family earnings. 

"Wliy complete the sketch ? It is drearily familiar al- 
ready. Such as it ia, it is the frame in wliich are set days, 
weeks, months, and years of unceasing toil, just able to fill 
the mouth and clothe the back. Such as it is, it is the 
world, and all of it, to wliich these weary workers return 
nightly to feed heart and brain after wearing out the body 
at the bench, or in the shop. To it come the j'onng with 
their restless yearnings, perhaps to pass on the threshold 
one of the daughters of sin, driven to the tenement by the 
police when they raided her den, sallying forth" in silks 
and fine attire after her day of idleness. These in their 
coarse garments — girls with the love of youth for beauti- 
ful things, with this hard life before them — ^who shall save 
them from the tempter ? Down in the street the saloon, 
always bright and gay, gathering to itself all the cheer of 
the block, beckons the boys. In many such blocks the 
censns-tal;er found two thousand men, women, and chil- 
dren, and over, who called them home. 

The picture is faithful enough to stand for its class 
wherever along both rivers the Irish brogue is heard. As 
already said, the Ceit falls most readily victim to tene- 
ment influences since shanty-town and its original free- 
soilers have become things of the past. If he be thrifty 
and shrewd his progress thenceforward ifcalong the plane 
of the tenement, on which he soon assumes to manage 
without improving things. The German has an advan- 
tage over Lis Celtic neighbor in his strong love for flow- 

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ers, -which not all the tenements on the East Side have 
power to sniothei'. His garden goes with him wherever 
he goes. !Not that it represents any high moral principle 
in the man ; rather perhaps the capacity for it. He turns 
his saloon into a shrnhbery as soon as his back-yard. But 
wherever he puts it in a tenement block it does the work 
of a dozen police clubs. In proportion as it spi-eads the 
neighborhood takes on a more orderly character. As the 
green dies out of the landscape and increases in political 
importance, the police find more to do. "Where it dis- 
appears altogether from sight, lapsing into a mere sen- 
timent, police-beats are ehortened and the force patrols 
double at night. Neither the man nor the sentiment is 
wholly responsible for this. It is the tenement unadoi'ned 
that is. The changing of Tompkins Square from a sand 
lot into a beautiful park put an end for good and all to the 
"Bread or Blood" riots of which it used to be the scene, 
and ti-ansformed a nest of dangerous agitators into a 
harmless, beer-craving band of Anarchists, They have 
scarcely been heard of since. Opponents of the small 
parks system as a means of relieving the congested popu- 
lation of tenement districts, please take note. 

With the first liot nights in June police despatches, that 
record the killing of men and women by rolling off roofs 
and window-sills while asleep, announce that the time of 
greatest suffering among the poor is at hand. It is in hot 
weather, when life indoors is well-nigh unhearable with 
cooking, sleeping, and working, all crowded into the small 
rooms together, that the tenement expands, reckless of all 
restraint. Than a strange and picturesque life moves 
upon the flat roofs. In the day and early evening moth- 
ers air their babies there, the boys fly their kites from 
the house-tops, undismayed by police regulations, and the 



yomig men and girla court and pass the growler. In the 
stifling July nights, when the big barracks are like fieiy 
furnaces, their very walk giving out absorbed heat, men 
and women lie in restless, sweltering rows, panting for 
air and sleep. Then every truck in the street, every 
crowded fire-escape, becomes 
. bedroom, infinitely pi-efer- 
able to any the house affords. 
A cooling shower on such a 
■ night is hailed as a heaven- 
' sent blessing in a hundred 
thousand homes. 

Life in the tenements ia 
July and August spells death 
to an army of little ones whom 
the doctor's skill is powerless 
to save. When the white 
badge of mourning flutters 
from every second door, sleep- 
less mothers walk the streets 
in the gray of the early dawn, 
trying to stir a cooling breeze 
to fan the brow of the sick 
baby. There is no sadder 
sight than this patient devo- 
tion strivingagainst feai-fully hopeless odds. Fifty " sum- 
mer doctors," especially trained to this work, are then 
sent into the tenements by the Board of Health, with 
free advice and medicine for the poor. Devoted women 
follow in their track with care and nnrsing for the sick. 
Fresh -air excursions run daily out of New York on land 
and water ; but despite all efforts the grave-diggers in 
Calvary work over-time, and little coffins are stacked 

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mountain - high on the deck of the Charity Commiseiou- 
ers' boat when it makes its semi-weekly trips to the city 

Under the most favorable circumstances, an epidemic, 
which the well-to-do can afford to make light of as a thing 
Co be got over or avoided by reasonable care, is excessively 
fatal among the children of the poor, by reason of t!ie 
practical impossibility of isolating the patient in a tene- 
ment. The measles, ordinarily a liarmless disease, fur- 
uishea a familiar example. Tread it ever so lightly on the 
avenues, in the tenements it kills right and left. Such 
an epidemic I'avaged three crowded blocks in Elizabeth 
Street on the heels of the grippe last winter, and, when it 
had spent its fury, the death-maps in the Bureau of Vital 
Statistics looked as if a black hand had been laid across 
those blocks, over-shadowing in part the contiguous ten- 
ements in Mott Street, and with tbe thumb covering a 
particularly packed settlement of half a dozen houses in 
Mulberry Street. The track of the epidemic through 
these teeming barracks was as clearly defined as the track 
of a tornado through a forest district. There were houses 
in which as many as eight little children had died in five 
months. Tbe records showed that respiratory diseases, 
the common heritage of the grippe and the measles, had 
caused death in most cases, discovering the ti-ouble to be, 
next to the inability to check the contagion in those 
crowds, in the poverty of the parents and the wretched 
liome conditions that made proper care of the sick impos- 
sible. The fact was emphasized by the occurrence here 
and there of a few isolated deaths from diphtheria and 
scarlet fever. In the case of these diseases, considered 
more dangerous to the public health, the liealth officers 
exercised summary poweis of removal to the hospital 



where proper treatment could be had, and the result was a 
low death -rate. 

These were tenementa of the tall, modern type. A lit- 
tle more than a year ago, when a census was made of the 
tenements and compared with the mortality tables, no 
little surprise and congratulation was caused by the dis- 
coveiy that as the buildings grew taller the death-rate fell. 
The reason is plain, though the reverse had been expected 
by most people. The biggest tenements have been built 
in the last ten years of sanitary reform rule, and have been 
brought, in all but the crowding, under its laws. The old 
houses that fi'oni private dwellings were made into tene- 
ments, or were run up to house the biggest crowds in de- 
fiance of every moral and physical law, can be improved 
by no device short of demolition. They will ever remain 
the worst. 

Tiiat ignorance plays its part, as well as poverty and 
bad hygienic surroundings, in the sacrifice of life is of 
course inevitable. They go usually hand in hand. A 
message came one day last spring summoning me to a 
Mott Street tenement in which lay a child dying from 
some unknown disease. With the " charity doctor " I 
found the patient on the top floor, stretched upon two 
chairs in a dreadfully stifling room. She was gasping in 
the agony of peritonitis that had already written its death- 
sentence on her wan and pinched face. The wliole fam- 
ily, father, mother, and four ragged children, sat around 
looking on with the stony resignation of helpless despair 
that had long since given up the fight against fate as use- 
less. A glance around the wretched room left no doubt 
as to the eanse of the child's condition. " Improper nour- 
ishment," said the doctor, which, translated to suit the 
place, meant starvation. The father's hands were crip- 




pled from lead poisoning. He had not been able to work 
for a year. A contagious disease of the eyes, too long neg- 
lected, had made the mother and one of the boys nearly 

blind. The children cried with hunger. They had not 
broken their fast that day, and it was then near noon. 

* Saspicioii3 of murder, in the case of a. woman who was found dead, 
covered with bruises, after a day's running fight with her husband, in 
which the beer-jug had been the bone of contention, brought me to 
this house, a ramshackle feneraent on tho tail-«nd cjf a lot over near 
the North Biver docks. The family in the picture lived nbove the 
rooms where the dead woman lay on a bed of straw, overrun by rats, 
and had been uniDlereated witnesses of the affray that was an every- 
day occurrence in the house. A patohed and shaky stairway led up to 



For months the family had subsisted on two dollars a 
week from the priest, and a few loaves and a piece of 
corned beef which the siatei's sent them on Saturday. The 
doctor gave direction for the treatineiit of the child, know- 
ing that it was possible only to alleviate its sufferings un- 
til death should end them, and left some money for food 
for the rest. An hour later, when I returned, I found 
them feeding the dying child with ginger ale, bought for 
two cents a bottle at the pedlar's cart down the street. A 
pitying neighbor iiad proposed it as the one thing she 
could think of as likely to make the child forget its mis- 
ery. There was enough in the bottle to go round to the 
rest of the family. In fact, the wake liad already begun ; 
before night it was under way in dead earnest. 

Every once in a while a case of downright starvation 
gets into the newspapers and makes a sensation. But 
tliis is the exception. Were the whole truth known, it 
would come home to the community with a shock that 
would rouse it to a more serious effort than the spasmodic 
undoing of its purse-strings. I am satisfied front my own 
observation that hundreds of men, women, and children 

tbefr one bare and miserable room, in comparison with wbicli a, nhite- 
wasbed prison-oell seemed a real palace. A heap of old ragB, in which 
tbe baby slept serenely, served as the common sleeping-bunk of fath- 
er, mother, and children — two bright and pretty girls, singularly out of 
keeping in their clean, if coarse, dresses, with their surroundings. The 
father, a slow going, honest English ooal-heaver. earned on the aver- 
age five dollars a week " when work waa fairly britk," at the docks. 
But there n'ere long seasons when it was verj slack ' he said, doubt- 
fully. \ et tlie prospect did not seem to discourage them. The mother, 
a pleasant faced woman was cheerful even light hearted. Her smile 
seemed the most sadly hopeless of all in the utter wretchedness of the 
place, cheery though it was meant to be and realU was. It seemed 
doomed to certain disappointment — the one thing there that was yet 
to know a greater depth of miaerv 

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are every day slowly starving to death in the tenements 
with ray medical friend's complaint of " improper nourish- 
ment." Within a single week I have had this year three 
cases of insanity, provoked directly by poverty and want. 
One was that of a mother who in the middle of the night 
got up to murder her child, who was crying for food ; 
another was the case of an Elizabeth Street truck-driver 
■ whom the newspapers never heard of. With a family to 
provide for, he had been nnable to work for many months. 
There was neither food, nor a scrap of anything upon 
which money could be raised, left in the house ; his mind 
gave way under the combined physical and mental suf- 
fering. In the third ease I was just in time with the po- 
lice to prevent the madman from murdering his whole 
family. He had the sharpened hatchet in his pocket when 
we seized him. He was an Irish laborer, and had been 
working in the sewers until the poisonous gases destroyed 
his health. Then he was laid off, and scarcely anything 
had been coming in all winter but the oldest child's earn- 
ings as cash-girl in a store, $3.50 a week. There were 
seven children to pi-ovide for, and the rent of the Mulberry 
Street attic in which the family lived was $10 a jnonth. 
They had borrowed as long as anybody had a cent to lend. 
When at last the man got an odd job that would just 
buy the children bread, the week's wages only served to 
measure the depth of their misery. " It came in so on the 
tail-end of everything," said his wife in telling the story, 
with unconscious eloquence. The outlook worried him 
through sleepless nights until it destroyed his reason. In 
his madness he had only one conscious thought ; that the 
town should not take the children. "Better that I take 
care of them myself," he repeated to himself as he ground 
the axe to an edge. Help came in abundance from many 



almost as poor as they when the desperate straits of the 
family hecame known throngh his aiTest. Tlte readiness 
o£ the poor to share what little they have with those 
wJio have even less is one of the few moral virtues of 
the tenements. Their enormous crowds touch elbow in 
a closeness of sympathy that is scarcely to be understood 
out of tliem, and has no parallel except among the unfor- 
tunate women whom the world scorns as outcasts. Tliei'e 
is very little professed sentiment about it to draw a senti- 
mental tear fram the eye of romantic philanthropy,. The 
hard fact is that the instinct of self-preservation impels 
them to make common cause against the common misery. 
No doubt intemperance bears a large share of the blame 
for it ; judging from the stand-point of the policeman per- 
haps the greater share. Two such entries as I i^ead in 
the police returns on successive days last March, of moth- 
ers in "West Side tenements, who in their drunken sleep 
lay upon and killed their infants, go far to support such a 
position. And they are far from uncommon. But my 
experience has shown me another view of it, a view whicli 
the last report of the Society for Improving the Condition 
of the Poor seems more than half inclined to adopt in 
allotting to " intemperance the cause of distress, oi' distress 
the cause of intemperance," forty per cent, of the cases it 
is called upon to deal with. Even if it were all true, I 
should still load over upon the tenement the heaviest re- 
sponsibility. A single factor, the scandalous scarcity of 
water in the hot ennmier when the thii-st of the million 
tenants must he quenched, if not in that in something 
else, has in the past years more than all other causes en- 
couraged drunkenness among the poor. But to my mind 
there is a closer connection between the wages of the tene- 
ments and the vices and improvidence of those who dwell 

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in them than, with the guilt of the tenement upon onr 
lieads, we are willing to admit even to ourselveB. Weak 
tea with a dry crust is not a diet to nnree moral strength- 
Yet how much better might the fare be expected to be in 
the family of tliia " widow with seven children, very ener- 
getic and prudent "—I quote again from the report of the 
Society for the Improvement of the Condition of the Poor 
— whose " eldest girl was employed as a learner in a 
tailor's shop at small wages, and one boy had a place as 
' cash ' in a store. There were two other little boys who 
sold papers and sometimes earned one dollar. The mother 
finishes pantaloons and can do tliree pairs in a day, thus 
earning thirty-nine cents. Here is a family of eight per- 
sons with rent to pay and an income of less than six dol- 
lars a week." 

And yet she was better off in point of pay than this 
Sixth Street mother, who "had just' brought home four 
pairs of pants to finish, at seven cents a pair. She was 
required to put the canvas in the bottom, basting and sew- 
ing three times aronnd ; to put the linings in the waist- 
bands ; to tack three pockets, three comers to each ; to 
put on two stays and eight buttons, and make six button- 
holes ; to put the buckle on the back strap and sew on the 
ticket, ail for seven cents." Better off than the " chnreh- 
going mother of six children," and with a husband sick to 
death, who to support the family made shirts, averaging 
an income of one dollar and twenty cents a week, while 
Iier oldest girl, aged thirteen, was " employed down-town 
cutting out Hamburg edgings at one dollar and a half a 
week — two and a half cents per hour for ten hours of 
steady labor — making the total income of the family two 
dollars and seventy cents per week." Than the Harlem 
woman, who was " making a brave effort to support a 

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eick husband and two children by taking in washing at 
tliii-ty-five cents for tiie lot of fourteen large pieces, find- 
ing coal, soap, starch, and bluing herself, rather than de- 
pend on charity in any form." Specimen wages of the 
tenements these, seemingly inconsistent with the charge 
of improvidence. 

But the connection on second thought is not obscure. 
There is nothing in the prospect of a sharp, unceasing 
battle for the bare necessaries of life to encourage looking 
ahead, everything to discourage the effort. Improvidence 
and wastefulness are natural results. The instalment 
plan secures to the tenant who lives from hand to mouth 
liis few comforts; the evil day of reckoning is put off till 
a to-morrow that may never come. When it does come, 
with failnre to pay and the loss of hard-earned dollars, it 
simply adds another hardship to a life measured from the 
cradle by such incidents. The children soon catch the 
spirit of this sort of thing. I remember once calling at 
the home of a poor washer-woman living in an East Side 
tenement, and finding the door locked. Some children in 
the hallway stopped their play and eyed me attentively 
while I knocked. The biggest girl volunteered the infor- 
mation that Mrs. Smith was out ; but wliile I was think- 
ing of how I was to get a message to her, the child put a 
question of her own : " Are you the spring man or the 
clock man ? " "When I assured her that I was neither one 
nor the other, but had brouglit work for her mother, Mrs. 
Smith, who had been hiding from the instalment collector, 
speedily appeared. 

Perhaps of all the disheartening experiences of those 
who have devoted lives of unselfish thought and effort, 
and their number is not so small as often supposed, to the 
lifting of this great load, the indifference of those they 

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would help IS the most pnzzliug. They will not be helped. 
Dragged by main force out of their misery, they slip back 
again on the first opportunity, seemingly content only in 
the old rut. The explanation was supplied by two women 
of my acquaintance in an Elizabeth Street^tenement, 
whom the city missio»aries had taken from tlieir wretched 
hovel and provided^ with work and a decent home some- 
where in New Jer^y. In three weeks they were back, 
saying that they preferred tlieir dark rear room to the 
stumps out in the country. But to me the oldest, the 
mother, who had struggled along with her daughter mak- 
ing cloaks at lialf a dollar apiece, twelve long years since 
the daughter's husband was killed in a street accident and 
the city took the children, made the bitter confession : 
" We do get so kind o' downhearted living this way, tliat 
we have to be where something is going on, or we jnst 
can't stand it." And there was sadder pathos to me in 
her words than in the whole long story of theii- struggle 
with poverty ; for unconsciously she voiced the sufferings 
of thousands, misjudged by a happier world, deemed vi- 
cious because they are human atid unfortunate. 

It is a popular delusion, encouraged by all sorts of exag- 
gerated stories when nothing more exciting demands pub- 
lic attention, that there are more evictions in the tene- 
ments of New York every year " than in all Ireland." I 
am not sure that it is doing much for the tenant to npset 
this fallacy. To my mind, to be put out of a tenement 
wonld be the height of good luck. The fact is, however, 
that evictions are not nearly as common in New York as 
supposed. The reason is that in the civil courts, the judges 
of which are elected in their districts, the tenant-voter has 
solid ground to stand upon at last. The law that takes his 
side to start with is usually twisted to the utmost to give 

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hid! time and save him expeiiee. In tlie busiest East Side 
court, tliat iiaa been very appropriately dnbbed the " Poor 
Man's Court," fuily five thousand dispossess wan-ants are 
issued in a year, but probably not fifty evictions take 
place in the district. The landlord has only one vote, 
while there may be forty voters iiiring his rooms in the 
liousej all of which the judge takes into careful account as 

elements tliat have a direct bearing on the case. And so 
they have — on his case. There are sad cases, just as there 
are " rounders " who prefer to be moved at tlie landlord's 
expense and save the rent, but the former at least are un- 
usual enough to attract more than their share of attention. 
If his very poverty compels the tenant to live at a rate 
if not in a style that would beggar a Vanderbilt, paying 
four prices for everything he needs, from his rent and 

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coal down to the eiiiallest itetn in his housekeeping ac- 
count, fashion, no less inexorable in the tenenieuts thaa on 
the avenue, exftcts of him that he must die in a style that 
is finally and utterly ruinous. Tlie habit of expensive 
funerals — I know of no better classification for it than 
along with the opium habit and similar grievous plagues 
of mankind — is a distinctively Irish inheritance, but it has 
taken root among all classes of tenement dwellers, curious- 
ly enough most firmly among the Italians, who have taken 
amazingly to the funeral coach, perhaps because it fur- 
nishes the one opportunity of their lives for a really grand 
tum-ont with a free ride thrown in. It is not at all un- 
common to find the hoards of a whole lifetime of hard 
work and self-denial squandered on the empty show of a 
ludicrous funeral parade and a display of flowers that ill 
comports with the humble life it is supposed to exalt. It 
is easier to understand the wake as a sort of consolation 
cup for the survivors for whom there is— as one of them, 
doubtless a heathenish pessimist, put it to me once — ^"no 
snch luck." The press and the pnlpit have denounced 
the wasteful practice that often entails bitter want upoji 
tlie relatives of the one buried with such pomp, but 
with little or no apparent result. Rather, the undertaker's 
business prospers more than ever in the tenements since 
the genius of polities has seen its way clear to make capi- 
tal out of the dead voter as well as of the living, by 
making him the means of a useful " show of strength " 
and count of noses. 

One free excursion awaits young and old wiiom bitter 
poverty has denied the poor privilege of the choice of the 
home in death they were denied in life, the ride up the 
Sound to the Potter's Field, charitably styled the City 
Cemetery. But even there they do not escape their fate. 

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In the coHiiiioii tierieh of the Poor Burying Ground thej 
lie packed three stories deep, shoulder to shoulder, crowd- 
ed in death as they were in Hfe, to "save space;" for 
even on that desert island the ground is not for the exelu- 
eive possession of those who cannot afford to pay for it. 
There is an odd coincidence in this, that year by year the 
lives that are begun in the gutter, the little nameless waifs 
whom the police pick up and the city adopts as its ward,', 
ai'e balanced by the even more forlorn lives that are ended 
in tlie river. I do not know how or why it happens, or 
that it is more than a mere coincidence. But there it is. 
Year by year the balance is struck^a few more, a few less 
— substantially the same when the recoi-d is closed. 




THE problem of tlie children becomes, in theee swarme, 
to the last degree perplexing. Their very number 
makes one stand aghast. I have already given instances of 
the packing of the child population-in East Side tenements. 
They might be continued indefinitely nntil the array would 
be enough to startle any commonity. For, be it remem- 
bered, these children with the training they receive — or 
do not receive— with the instincts they inherit and absorb 
in their growing up, are to be our future rnlers, if onr 
theory of government is worth anything. More than a 
working majority of our voters now register from tlie 
tenements. I counted the other day the little ones, up to 
ten years or so, in a Bayard Street tenement that for a 
yard lias a triangular space in the centre with sides four- 
teen or fifteen feet long, just room enough for a row of 
ill-snielling closets at the base of the triangle and a hy- 
drant at the apex. There was about as much light in this 
" yard " as in the average cellar. I gave up my self-im- 
posed task in despair when I had counted one hundred 
and twenty-eigiit in forty families. Thirteen I had 
missed, or not found in. Applying the average for the 
forty to the whole iifty-three, the house contained one 
hundred and seventy children. It is not the only time I 
have had to give up such census work. I have in mind 
an alley — an inlet rather to a row of rear tenements — that 

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is either two or four feet wide according as tlie wall of the 
crazy old building that gives on it bulges out or in. I 
tried to count the children that swarmed there, but could 
not. Sometimes I have doubted that anybody knows just 
liow many there are about. Bodies of drowned children 
turn up in the rivers right along in summer whom no one 
seems to know anything about. When last spring some 
workmen, while moving a pile of lumber on a North Eiver 
pier, found under the last piank the body of a little lad 
crushed to death, no one had missed a boy, though liis 
parents afterward turned up. The truant officer assuredly 
does not know, though lie spends liis life trying to find 
out, somewhat illogically, perhaps, since the department 
that employs him admits that thousands of poor children 
are crowded out of the schools year by year for want of 
room. There was a big tenement in the Sixth Ward, now 
happily appropriated by the beneficent spirit of business 
that blots out so many foul spots in Kew York— it figured 
not long ago in the official reports as " an out-and-out hog- 
pen " — that had a record of one hundred and two arrests 
in four years among its four hundred and seventy-eight 
tenants, fifty-seven of them for drunken and disorderly 
conduct. I do not know how many children there were 
in it, but the inspector reported that he found only seven 
in the whole house who owned that they went to school. 
The rest gathered all the instruction they received run- 
ning for beer for their elders. Some of them claimed the 
"flat "as their home as a mere matter of form. They 
slept in the streets at night. The official came upon a 
little party of four drinking beer out of the cover of a 
milk -can in the hallway. They were of the seven good 
boys and proved their claim to the title by offering him 

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The old question, what to do with tiie boy, assumes a 
new and serious phase in the teneineiils. Under tlie best 
conditions found there, it is not easily answered. In nine 
cases out of ten he would make an excellent mechanic, if 
trained early to woi'k at a trade, for he is neither dull nor 
slow, but the short-sighted despotism of the trades unions 
has practicaliy closed that avenue to him. Trade-schools, 
however excellent, cannot supply the opportunity thus 
denied him, and at the outset the boy stands condemned 
by his own to low and ill-paid drudgery, held down by 
the haud that of all should labor to raise him. Home, 
the greatest factor of all in the training of the young, means 
nothing to him but a pigeon-hole in a coop along with so 
many other human animals. Its influence is scarcely of 
the elevating kind, if it have any. The very games at 
which he takes a hand in the street become polluting in 
its atmosphere. With no steady hand to guide him, the 
boy takes naturally to idle ways. Caught in the street 
by the tniant officer, or by the agents of the Children's 
Societies, peddling, perhaps, or begging, to help out tlie 
family resources, he runs the risk of being sent to a re- 
formatory, where contact with vicious boys older than him- 
self soon develop the latent possibilities for evil _that lie 
hidden in him. The city has no Truant Ilome in which 
to keep him, and all efforts of the children's friends to en- 
force school attendance are paralyzed by this want. The 
risk of the reformatory is too gi-eat. What is done iu 
the end is to let him take chanees^with the chances all 
against him. Tlie result is the rough young savage, fa- 
miliar from tlie street. Rough as he is, if any one doubt 
that tiiia child of common clay have in him the instinct 
of beanty, of love for the ideal of which his life has no 
embodiment, let him put the matter to the test. Let 

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Jiim take into a tenement block a handful of flowers 
from the fields and watch the brightened faces, the sud- 
den abandonment of plaj and %ht that go ever hand in 
hand where there is no elbow*room, the wild entreaty for 
" posies," the eager love with which the little messengers 
of peace are shielded, once possessed ; then let him change 
his mind. I have seen an armful of daisies keep tiie 
peace of a block better than a policeman and his club, 
seen instincts awaken under their gentle appeal, whose 
very existence the soil in which they grew made seem a 
mockery. I have not forgotten the deputation of I'aga- 
mnfflns from a Mulberry Street alley that knocked at my 
ofiice door one mocning on a mysterious expedition for 
flowers, not for themselves, but for "a lady," and having 
obtained what they wanted, trooped off to bestow them, a 
ragged and dirty little band, with a solemnity that was 
quite unnsuai. It was not imtil an old man called the 
next day to thank me for the flowers tliat I found out 
they had decked tiie bier of a pauper, in the dark rear 
room where she lay waiting in her pine-board colfin for 
the city's hearse. Yet, as I knew, that dismal alley with 
its bare brick walls, between which no sun ever rose or 
set, was the world of those children. It filled their young 
lives. Probably not one of them had ever been out of the 
sight of it. They were too dirty, too ragged, and too gen- 
ei'ally disreputable, too well hidden in their slum besides, 
to come into line with tlie Fresh Air summer boai-ders. 

With such human instincts and cravings, forever unsat- 
isfied, turned into a haunting curse ; with appetite ground 
to keenest edge by a hunger tliat is never fed, the chil- 
dren of the poor grow up in joyless homes to lives of 
wearisome toil that claims tiiem at an age when the play 
of their happier fellows has but just begun. Has a yard 



of turf been kid and a vine been coaxed to grow within 
tlieir reach, they are banislied and barred out from it 
as from a heaven that is not for such as they. I came 
upon a couple of youngsters in a Hulherry Street yard a 
while ago that were chalking on the fence their first lesson 
in "writin'." And this is what they wrote: "Keeb of 
te Grass." They had it by heart, for there was not, I 
verily believe, a green sod within a quaiter of a mile. 
Home to them is an empty name. Pleasure ? A gentle- 
man once catechized a ragged class in a down-town public 
school on this point, and I'ecorded the result : Oat of for- 
ty-eight boys twenty had never seen the Brooklyn Bridge 
that was scarcely five minutes' walk away, three only had 
been in Central Park, fifteen had known the joy of a ride 
in a horse-car. _ The sti'eet, with its ash-barrels and its 
dirt, the river that rims foul with mud, are their domain. 
What training they receive is picked up there. And they 
are apt pupils. If the nmd and the dirt are easily re- 
flected in their lives, what wonder? Scarce half-grown, 
such lads as these confront the world with the challenge 

to give them their due, too long withheld, or . Our 

jails supply the answer to the alternative. 

A little fellow who seemed clad in but a single rag was 
among the flotsam and jetsam stranded at Police Head- 
quarters one day last summer. No one knew where he 
came from or where he belonged. The boy himself knew 
as little about it as anybody, and was the least anxious to 
have light shed on the subject after he had spent a night 
in the matron's nursery. The discovery that beds were 
provided for boys to sleep in there, and that he could have 
" a whole egg " and three slices of bread for breakfast put 
him on tlie best of terms with the world in general, and 
he decided that Headquarters was " a bully place." He 

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sang " McGinty " all through, with Tenth Avenue varia- 
tions, for the police, and then settled down to the serious 
biifiiness of giving an account of himself. The examina- 
tion went on after this fashion : 

" Where do you go to cliurch, my boy ? " 

" We don't have no clothes to go to church." And in- 
deed his appearance, as he was, in tlie door of any New 
York church would liave caused a sensation. 

" Well, where do yoii go to scliooi, then ? " 

" I don't go to school," with a snort of contempt. 

" Where do yon buy your bread ? " 

" We don't buy no bread ; we bny beer," said the boy, and 
it was eventually the saloon that led the police as a land- 
mark to his " home."' It was worthy of the boy. As he 
had said, his only bed was a heap of dirty straw on tlje 
floor, ills daily diet a crust in the morning, nothing else. 

Into the rooms of the Children's Aid Society were led 
two little girls whose father had "busted up the house" 
and put them on the street after their mother died. An- 
other, who was turned out by her step-mother "because 
she Iiadfive of her own and could not afford to keep her," 
could not remember ever having been in ciiurch or Sun- 
day-school, and only knew tlie name of Jesus through 
bearing people swear by it. She had no idea what they 
meant. These were specimens of tlie ovei-flow from tlie 
tenements of our home-heathen that are growing np in 
New York's streets to-day, while tender-hearted men and 
women are busying themselves with the socks and the 
hei-eafter of well-fed little Hottentots thousands of miles 
away. According to Canon Taylor, of York, one hun- 
dred and nine missionaries in the four fields of Persia, 
Palestine, Arabia, and Egypt spent one year and sixty 
thousand dollars in converting one little heathen girl. If 

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thei'e is nothing the mattet' witli those misBionaries, tliey 
might come to New York with a good deal better pros- 
pect of success. 

By those who lay flattering unction to tlieir souls in 
tiie knowledge that to-day New York has, at all events, no 
brood of the gutters of tender years that can be homeless 
long unliceded, let it be remembered well tlirough what 
effort this judgment has been averted. In thirty-seven 
years the Children's Aid Society, that came into existence 
as an empliatic protest against the tenement corruption of 
the young, has sheltered quite three Iinndred thousand 
outcast, homeless, and orphaned children in its lodging- 
houses, and has found homes in the West for seventy 
thousand that had none. Doubtless, as a mere stroke of 
finance, the five millions and a half tJius spent were a 
wiser investment than to have let them grow up thieves 
and thugs. In the last fifteen years of this tireless battle 
for tlie safety of the State the intervention of the Society 
for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children has been in- 
voked for 138,891 little ones ; it has thrown its protection 
around more than twenty-five thousand helpless children, 
and has convicted nearly sixteen tliousaiid wretches of 
child-beating and abuse. Add to this the standing army 
of fifteen thousand dependent children in New York's 
asylums and institutions, and some idea is gained of the 
ci'op that is garnered day by day in the tenements, of the 
enormous force employed to check their inroads on onr 
social life, and of the cause for apprehension that would 
exist did tlieir efforts flag for ever so brief a time. 

Nothing ie now better understood than tliat the rescue 
of the children is the key to the problem of city poverty, 
as presented for our solution to-day ; that character may 
be formed where to reform it would be a hopeless task. 

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The concurrent testimony of all who liave to undertake it 
at a later stage : that the young are naturally neither vi- 
cious nor hardened, simply weak and undeveloped, except 
by the bad influences of the street, makes this duty all the 
more urgent as well as hopeful. Helping hands are held 
out on every side. To private charity the municipaiity 
leaves the entire care of its proletariat of tender years, 
lulling its conscience to sleep witii liberal appi-opriatioiis 
of money to foot the bills. Indeed, it is held by those 
whose opinions are entitled to weight tliat it is far too 
liberal a paymaster for its own best interests and those of 
its wards. It deals with the evil in the seed to a limited 
extent in gathering in the outcast babies from the streets. 
To the ripe fruit tlie gates of its prisons, its i-eforuiatories, 
and its workhouses are opened wide the year round. 
What the showing would be at this end of the line were it 
not for the barriers wise charity has thrown across the 
bn>ad highway to ruin— is building day by day — may be 
Beanired by such results as those quoted above in the 
span of ft single life. 

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FIRST among these barriers is the Foundling Asjhim. 
It stands at tlie very outset of the waste of life that 
goes on in a population of nearly two millions of people ; 
powerless to prevent it, though it gather in the outcasts 
by night and by day. In a score of years an army of 
twenty-five thousand of these forlorn little waifs have ci-ied 
out from the streets of New York in arraignment of a 
Christian civilization under the blessings of which the in- 
stinct of motherhood even was smothered by poverty and 
want. Only the poor abandon their children. The sto- 
ries of richly- dressed foundlings that are dished up in the 
newspapers at intervals are pure fiction. Not one in- 
stance of even a well-dressed infant having been picked up 
in the streets is on record. They come in rags, a news- 
paper often the only wrap, semi-occasionally one in a clean 
slip with some evidence of loving care ; a little slip of 
paper piimed on, perhaps, with some such message as this 
I once read, in a woman's trembling hand : " Take care of 
Johnny, for God's sake. I cannot." But even that is 
the rarest of all happenings. 

The city divides with the Sisters of Charity the task of 
gatliering them in. The real fonndlings, the children of 
the gutter that are picked up by the police, are the city's 
wards. In midwinter, when the poor shiver in their 
homes, and in the dog-days when the fierce heat and foul 



air of the tenements smother their babies by thousands, 
they are found, sometimes three and four in a night, 
in hallways, in areas and on the doorsteps of the rich, 
with whose comfort in luxurious homes the wretched 
mother somehow couueute liei- own misery. Perhaps, as 
the drowning man clutches at a straw, she hopes that 
these happier hearts may have love to spare even for her 
little one. In this she is mistaken. Unauthorized babies 
especially are not popular in the abodes of the wealthj\ 
It never happens outside of the story-books that a baby 
so deserted finds home and friends at once. Its career, 
thongh rather more official, is less romantic, and gener- 
ally brief. After a night spent at Police Headquarters it 
travels up to the Infants' Hospital on Randall's Island in 
the morning, fitted out with a number and a bottle, that 
seldom see inucli wear before they are laid aside for a fresh 
recruit. Few outcast babies survive their desertion long. 
Murder is the true name of the mother's crime in eight 
cases out of ten. Of 508 babies received at the Randall's 
Island Hospital last year 333 died, 65.55 per cent. But 
of the 508 only 170 were picked up in the streets, and 
among tliese the mortality was much greater, pi'obably 
nearer ninety per cent., if the truth were told. The i-est 
were born in the hospitals. The high mortality among 
the foundlings is not to be marvelled at. The wonder is, 
rather, that any survive. Tlie stormier the night, the more 
certain is the police nursery to echo with the feeble cries 
of abandoned babes. Often they come half dead fi'om 
exposure. One live baby came in a little pine cofEn which 
a polieenian found an inhuman wretch trying to bury in 
an up-town lot. But many do not live to be officially 
registered as a charge upon the county. Seventy-two 
dead babies were picked up in the streets last year. Some 

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of them were doubtless put out by very poor pai-ents to 
save funeral expenses. In hard times the number of dead 
and live foundlings always increases very noticeably. But 
wlietlier travelling by way of the Morgue or the Infants' 
Hospital, the little army of waifs meets, reunited soon, in 
the trench in the Potter's Field whei'e, if no medical stu- 
dent is in need of a subject, they are laid in squads of a 

Most of the foundlings come from the East Side, where 
they are left by young mothers withoiit wedding-ring 
or other name than their own to bestow upon the baby, 
I'eturuing from the island hospital to fnce an unpitying 
world with tlie evidence of their shauie. Kot infrequently 
they wear the bed-tick regimentals of the Public Charities, 
and thus their origin is easily enough traced. Oftener no 
ray of light penetrates thegloom, and no effort is made to 
probe the mystery of sin and sorrow. This also is the 
policy pursued in the great Fomidiing Asylum of the 
Sisters of Charity in Sixty-eighth Street, known all over 
the world as Sister Irene's Asylum. Years ago the crib 
that now stands just inside the street door, under the 
great main portal, was placed outside at night ; but it 
filled up too rapidly. The babies took to coming in little 
squads instead of in single file, and in self-defence the 
sisters were forced to take the cradle in. Xow the mother 
must bring her child inside and put it in the crib where 
she is seen by the sister on guard. Xo effort is made to 
question her, or discover the child's antecedents, but she 
is asked to stay and nnrse her own and another baby. 
If she refuses, she is allowed to depart unhhidered. If 
willing, she enters at once into the great family of the 
good Sister who in twenty-one years has gathered as many 
thousand homeless babies into her fold. One was brought 

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in wlieu I was last in the asvlum, in tlie middle of Julj-, 
tliat received in its erib the number 20715. The death- 
rate is of course lowered a good deal where exposm^e of 
the child is prevented. Among the eleven hnndred in- 
fants in the asylum it was something over nineteen per 
cent, last year ; but among those actnally received in tlie 
twelvemonth nearer twice that figure. Even the nineteen 
per cent., remarkably low for a Foundling Asylum, was 
equal to the startling death-rate of Gotham Court in the 
cholera scourge. 

Four hundred and sixty motliers, who could not or 
would not keep their own babies, did voluntary penance 
for their sin in the asylum last year by nursing a strange 
waif besides their own untii both should be strong enough 
to take their chances in life's battle. An even larger num- 
ber than the eleven hundred were " pay babies," put out 
to be nursed by "mothers" outside the asylum. The 
money thus earaed pays the rent of hundreds of poor 
families. It is no triile, quite half of the quarter of a 
million dollars eonti'ibuted annually by the city for tlie 
support of the asylum. The procession of these nurse- 
mothers, wlieii they come to the asylum on the first 
Wednesday of each month to I'eceive their pay and have 
the babies inspected by the sisters, is one of the siglits of 
the city. The nui-ses, who are under strict supervision, 
grow to love their little charges and part from them with 
tears when, at the age of four or five, they are sent to 
Western homes to be adopted. Tlie sisters carefully en- 
courage the iiome-feeling in the child as their sti-ongest 
ally in seeking its mental and moral elevation, and the tod- 
dlers depart happy to join their " papas and mammas " in 
the far-away, unknown home. 

An infinitely more fiendish, if to surface appearances 

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WAIFS OF THE city's SLUMS, 191 

less deliberate, plan of diild-murder than < 
flourished in New York for years under the title of baby- 
fanning. The name, put into plain English, means starv- 
ing babies to death. The law has fought this most hein- 
ous of crimes by compelling the registry of all baby-farms. 
As well might it require ali persons intending murder to 
register their purpose with time and place of the deed un- 
der the penalty of exemplary fines. Murderers do not 
hang out a shingle. " Baby-farms," said once Mr. EI- 
hridge T. Gerry, the President of the Society charged with 
the execution of the law that was passed through liis 
efforts, " are concerns by means of which persons, nsnaiiy 
of disreputable character, eke out a living by taking two, 
or three, or four babies to boai-d. Tiiey are the charges 
of outcasts, or illegitimate children. They feed them on 
sour miik, and give them paregoric to keep them quiet, 
until they die, when tliey get some young medical man 
without experience to sign a certificate to the Board of 
Health that the child died of inanition, and so the matter 
ends. The baby is dead, and there is no one to com- 
plain." A handful of baby-farms have been registered 
and licensed by the Hoard of Health with the approval of 
the Society for the Prevention of Ci'uelty to Children in 
the last five years, but none of this kind. The devil keeps 
the only complete register to be found anywhere. Their 
trace is found oftenest by the coroner or the police ; 
sometimes they may be discovered hiding in the advertis- 
ing columns of certain newspapers, under the guise of the 
scarcely less heartless traffic in helpless children that is 
dignified with the pretence of adoption — for cash. An 
idea of how this scheme works was obtained through the 
disclosures in a celebrated divorce ease, a year or two 
ago. The society has among its records a very recent 

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ease * of a baby a week old (Baby " Blue Eyes ") that was 
offered for saJe^adoption, tbe dealer called it — in a news- 
paper. The agent bought it after some haggling for a 
dollar, and arrested the woman slave-trader ; but the law 
was powerless to punish her for her crmie. Twelve un- 
fortunate women awaiting dishonored motlierliood were 
found in lier liouse. 

One gets a glimpse of the frightful depths to which 
human nature, perverted by avarice bred of ignorance and 
rasping poverty, can descend, in the mere suggestion of 
systematic insurance for profit of childi-en's lives, A 
woman was pnt on trial in this city last year for incredible 
cruelty in her treatment of a step-child. The evidence 
aroused a strong suspicion that a pitifully small amount 
of insurance on the child's life was one of the motives for 
the woman's savagery, A little investigation brought out 
the fact that three companies that were in the business of 
insuring children's lives, for sums varying from $17 up, 
had issued not less than a million such policies ! The 
premiums ranged from five to twenty-five cents a week. 
What untold horrors this business may conceal was sug- 
gested by a formal agreement entered into by some of the 
companies, " for the purpose of preventing speculation in 
the insurance of children's lives." By tbe terms of this 
compact, " no higher premium than ten cents could be ac- 
cepted on cliiidren under six years old." Barbarism for- 
sooth ! Did ever heathen cruelty invent a more fiendish 
plot than the one written down between the lines of this 
legal paper? 

It is with a sense of glad relief that one turns from this 
misery to the brighter page of the helping hands stretched 
n of Cruelty to Children, Case 43,028, Maj 

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forth on every side to save the young and the lielplees. 
New York is, I firmly believe, the most charitable city in 
the world. Nowhere is there so eager a readiness to help, 
when it is known that help is worthily wanted ; nowhere 
are such armies of devoted workers, nowhere such abun- 
dance of means ready to the hand of those who know the 
need and how i-ightly to supply it. Its poverty, its slums, 
and its suffering are the result of unprecedented growth 
with the consequent disorder and crowding, and the com- 
mon penalty of metropolitan greatness. If the stracture 
shows signs of being top-heavy, evidences are not wanting 
— they ai'e multiplying day by day— that patient toilers 
are at work among the underpinnings. The Day Nur- 
series, the numberless Kindergai'teiis and charitable schools 
in the poor quarters, the Fresh Air Funds, the thousand 
and one chanties that in one way or another reach the 
lioines and the lives of the poor with sweetening touch, are 
proof that if much is yet to bo done, if the need only 
grows with the effort, hearts and hands will be found to 
do it in ever-increasing measure. Black as the cloud is 
it has a silver lining, bright with promise. New York is 
to-day a hundredfold cleaner, better, purer, city than it 
was even ten years ago. 

Two powerful agents that were among the pioneers in 
this work of moral and physical regeneration stand in 
Paradise Park to-day as milestones on the rocky, uphill 
road. The handful of noble women, who braved the foul 
depravity of the Old Brewery to i-escue its child victims, 
rolled away the first and heaviest bowldei-, which legisla- 
tures and city councils had tackled in vain. The Five 
Points Mission and the Five Points House of Industry 
have accomplished what no machinery of government 
availed to do. Sixty thousand children have been res- 

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ciied by them from the streets and had their little feet set 
in the better way. Their work still goes on, increasing 
and gathering in the waifs, instructing and feeding them, 
and helping tlieir parents with advice and more substan- 
tial aid. Tlieir charity knows not creed or nationality. 
The House of Industry is an enormous nursery-school 
with an average of more than four hundred day scholars 
and constant boarders — "outsiders " and " insiders." Its 
iiiflnence is felt for many blocks around in that crowded 
part of the city. It is one of the most touching eights in 
the world to see a score of babies, rescued froTii homes of 
brutality and desolation, where no otlier blessing than a 
di'unken curse was ever heard, saying tlieir prayei-s in the 
nursery at bedtime. Too often their white niglit-gowns 
hide tortured little bodies and limbs cruelly bruised by in- 
human hands. In the shelter of this fold they are safe, 
and a happier little group one may seek long and far in 

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"VTOT all the barriers erected by 
-^' nether life, not the labor of unnumbered societies 
for the I'eseue and relief of its outcast waifs, can dam the 
Btreaiii of honjelessness that issues from a source whei'e 
the very name of home is a mockery. The Street Arab 
is as miieh of an institution in Kew York as Newspaper 
Eow, to which lie gravitates naturally, following his Bo- 
hemian instinct. Crowded out of the tenements to shift 
for himself, and quite ready to do it, he meets there the 
host of adventuj'OQS j-unaways from every State in tlie 
Union and from across the sea, whom New York attracts 
with a queer fascination, as it attracts the older emigrants 
from all parts of the world. A census of the population 
in the Newsboys' Lodging-house on any niglit will show 
such an odd mixture of small linmanity as could Iiardly be 
got together in any other spot. It is a mistake to think 
that they are helpless little creatnree, to be pitied and cried 
over because they are alone in the world. The unmerciful 
" gnying " the good man would receive, who went to them 
with such a programme, would soon convince him that 
that sort of pity was wasted, and would very likely give 
him the idea tliat they were a set of hardened little scoun- 
drels, quite beyond the reach of missionary effort. 

But that would only be his second mistake. The Street 
Arab has all the faults and all the virtues of the lawless 

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life he leads. Vagabond that he is, acknowledging no 
authority and owing no allegiance to anybody or anything, 
with his grimy fist raised against society whenever it tries 
to coerce him, he is as bright and sharp as the weasel, 
whicii, among all the predatory beasts, he most resembles. 
His sturdy independence, love of freedom and absolute 
self- reliance, together with his rude sense of justice that 
enables him to govern his little community, not always in 
accordance with municipal law or city ordinances, but often 
a good deal closer to the saving line of " doing to others 
as one would be done by " — these are strong handles by 
which those who know how can catch the boy and make 
him useful. Successful bankers, clergymen, and lawyers 
all over the country, statesmen in some instances of na- 
tional repute, bear evidence in their lives to the potency 
of such missionary efforts. There is scarcely a leai'ned 
profession, or branch of honorable business, that has not 
in the last twenty years borrowed some of its brightest 
light from the poverty and gloom of New York's streets. 
Anyone, whom business or curiosity has taken through 
Park Row or across Printing House Square in the mid- 
night hour, when the air is filled with the roar of great 
presses spinning with printers' ink on endless rolls of white 
paper the history of tlie world in the twenty-four hours 
that have just passed away, lias seen little groups of these 
boys hanging about tlie newspaper offices ; in winter, 
when snow is on the streets, fighting for wann spots 
arennd the grated vent-holes that let out the heat and 
steam from the underground press-rooms with their noise 
and clatter, and in summer playing craps and 7-11 on the 
curb for their hard-earned pennies, with all the absorbing 
concern of hardened gamblers. This is their beat. Here 
the agent of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to 

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198 now THE 0'1'UEIi HALF LIVES. 

Children finds those he thinks too joung for " biisineea," 
but does not always capture tlieni. Like rabbits in their 
burrows, the little ragamuffins sleep with at least one eye 
open, and every sense alert to the appi'oaeli of danger : of 
their enemy, the policeman, whose chief business in life 
is to move them on, and of the agent bent on robbing 
them of their cherished freedom. At the first warning 
shout they scatter and are off. To pursue them would be 
like cliasing the fleet-footed mountain goat in his rocky 
fastnesses. There is not an open dooi', a hidden turn or 
runway which they do not know, with lots of secret pas- 
sages and short cuts no one else ever fonnd. To steal a 
mai-ch on them is the only way. There is a coal chute 
from the sidewalk to t!ie boiler-room in tlie sub-cellar of 
the Post Office which the Society's officer found the boys 
had made into a sort of toboggan slide to a snug bertli in 
wintiy weatlier. They used to slyly raise the cover in the 
street, slide down in single file, and snuggle up to the 
warm boiler ont of harm's way, as they thought. It 
proved a trap, however. The agent slid down himself 
one cold night — there was no other way of getting there 
— and, landing right in the midst of the sleeping colony, 
had it at his mei-cy. After repeated raids upon their 
headquarters, the boys forsook it last summer, and were 
next fonnd herding under the shore-end of one of the 
East Kiver banana docks, where tliey had fitted np a I'eg- 
ular club-room that was shared by thirty or forty home- 
less boys and about a million rats. 

Newspaper Row is merely their headquarters. They 
are to be fonnd all over the city, these Street Arabs, 
where the neighborhood offers a chance of picking up a 
living in the daytime and of " turning in " at night with 
a promise of security from surprise. In warm weather a 

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truck in the street, a convenient out-house, or a dug-ont 
in a hay-barge at the wharf make good bunka. Two were 
found making their nest once in the end of a big ii'on pipe . 
up by the Harlem Bri(jge, and an old boiler at the East 
River served as an elegant flat for another conple, who 
kept house tliere with a thief the police had long sought, 
little suspecting that he was hiding under their very noses 
for months together. When the Children's Aid Society 
first opened its lodging-houses, and with some difficulty 
persuaded the boys that their charity was no "pious 
dodge" to trap them into a treasonable "Sunday-school 
racket," its managers overheard a laughable ■ discussion 
among the boys in their unwontedly comfortable beds — 
perhaps the first some of- them had ever slept in — as to 
the relative merits of the different styles of their every- 
day berths. Preferences were divided between the steam- 
grating and a sand-box; but the weight of the evidence 
was decided to be in favor of the sand-box, because, as its 
advocate put it, "you could curl all up in it," The new 
" find " was voted a good way ahead of any previous ex- 
perience, however. "My eyes, ain't it nicel" said one of 
the lads, tucked in_ under his blanket up to the chin, and 
the roomful of hoys echoed tlie sentiment. The com- 
pact silently made tiiat night between the Street Arabs 
and their hosts has never been broken. They have been 
fast friends ever since. 

Whence this army of homeless boys ? is a question 
often asked. Tiie answer is supplied by the procession of 
mothers that go out and in at Police Headquarters the 
year round, inquiring for missing boys, often not until 
they have been gone for weeks and months, and then 
sometimes rather as a matter of decent form than from 
any real interest in the lad's fate. The stereotyped proni- 




ise of the clerks who fail to find his naine on the books 
among the ari'ests, that he " will come back when he gets 
hungry," does not always coine true. More likely he 
went away because lie was hungry. Some are orphans, 
actually or in effect, thtown upon the woild when tlieir 
parents were "sent up" to the island oi to Sing Sing, 
and somehow over- 
looked by the 
"faociety," which 
t h e n e ef orth be- 
came tlie enemy to 
be shunned until 
^'lowth and dirt 
md the hardsliips 
ot the street, that 
make old early, of- 
fer some hope of 
euccetsfully fioat- 
mg the lie that 
they are " sixteen," 
A diunken father 
explains the mat- 
ter in other cases, 
as in that of John 
and Willie, aged ten and eight, picked up by the police. 
They " didn't live nowhere," never went to school, eould 
neither read nor write. Their twelve-year-old sister kept 
honse for the father, who turned the boys ont to beg, or 
steal, or starve. Gi'inding poverty and hard work beyond 
the years of the lad ; blows and curses for breakfast, din- 
ner, and supper ; all these are recruiting agents for the 
homeless army. Sickness in the house, too many months 
to feed : 



" We wuz six," said an urcliin of twelve or thirteen I 
came across in the Newsboys' Lodging House, " and we 
ain't got no father. Some on us had to go." And so he 
went, to make a living by blacking boots. The going is 
easy enough. There is very little to hold tlie boy who 
has never known anything but a home in a tenement. 
Very soon the wild life in the streets holds him fast, and 
thenceforward by his own effort there is no escape. Left 
alone to himself, he soon enough finds a place in the police 
books, and there would be no other answer to the second 
question : " what becomes of the boy ? " than that given 
by the criminal courts every day in the week; 

But he is not left alone. Society in our day has no sucli 
suicidal intention. Eight here, at the parting of the ways, 
it has thrown up the strongest of all its defences for itself 
and for the boy. What the Society for the Prevention 
of Cruelty to Children is to the baby-waif, tlie Chiidren's 
Aid Society is to the homeless boy at this real tnrning- 
point in his career. The good it has done cannot easily 
be over-estimated. Its lodging-houses, its schools and its 
homes block every avenue of escape with their offer of 
shelter npon terms which the boy soon accepts, as on the 
whole cheap and fair. In the great Diiane Street lodging- 
house for newsboys, they are succinctly stated in a " no- 
tice " over the door tliat reads thus : " Boys who swear and 
chew tobacco cannot sleep here." There is another un- 
written condition, viz.: that the boy shall be really without 
a home ; but upon this the managers wisely do not insist 
too obstinately, accepting without too close inquiry his 
account of himself where that seems advisable, well 
knowing that many a home that sends forth such lads far 
less deserves the name than the one they are able to give 




Witli tiieae simple pi-eliminanes tlie outcast boy may 

enter. Rags do not count ; to ignorance the door is only 

opened wider. Dirt does not sm-vive long, once within 

the walls of the lodging-house. It is the settled belief of 

the men who 

conduct them 

th it soap and 

watei are as 

pow erf ul moral 

agents m their 

pai titular field 

an pleaching, 

ind they have 

experience to 

back them. 

The boy 
may come 
and go as he ^ 

long as lie 

himself. 'Ko 

restraint of 

any soi-t is ^3* _ ^^^1^^"^ 

puton his in- „„^^ ^^^ ,^ ^^^^^^ ^^^^^^ 


He is as free as anj other guest at i hotel, and, like 

him, Ije is e\peeted to pay foi what he get': How 

wisely the men planned who laid the foundation of this 

great rescue unrk and ^et c^ll> it on, is ''hown by no sin- 

;vCcJO«^ -le 


gle feature of it better than by tliis, No pauper was ever 
bred within tlieee houses. Nothing would have been 
easier witii such inatei-iai, or more fatal. But charity of 
the kind that pauperizes is furthest from their scheme. 
Self-help is its very key-note, and it strikes a response in 
the boy's stui-diest trait that raises iiiin at once to a leve! 
with the effort made in his behalf. Recognized as an in- 
dependent trader, capable of and bound to take care of 
himself, he is in a position to ask trust if trade has gone 
against him and he cannot pay cash for his " grnb " and 
his bed, and to get it without question. He can even 
have the loan of the small capital required to start him in 
business with a boot-black's kit, or an armful of papers, if 
he is known or vouched for ; but every cent is charged to 
hiin as carefully as tlioiigii the transaction involved as 
many hundreds of dollars, and he is expected to pay back 
the money as soon as he lias made enougii to keep him 
going without it. He very rarely betrays the tnist I'e- 
posed in him. Quite on the contrary, around this sound 
core of self-help, thus encouraged, habits of thiift and 
ambitions industry are seen to grow up in a majority of 
instances. The boy is "growing" a character, and he 
goes out to the man's work in life with that which for him 
is better than if he had found a fortune. 

Six cents for his bed, six for his breakfast of bread and 
coffee, and six for his supper of pork and beans, as much 
as he can eat, are the rates of the boys' " hotel " for those 
wlio bunk together in the great dormitories that some- 
times hold more than a hundred berths, two tiers high, 
made of iron, clean and neat. For the " upper ten," the 
yonng financiers who early take the lead among their fel- 
lows, hire them to work for wages and add a share of 
their profits to their own, and for the lads who are learn- 



ing a trade and getting paid by the week, there are ten. 
cent beds with a locker and with curtains hung about. 
Night schools and Sunday niglit meetings are held in the 
bnilding and are always well attended, in winter especi- 
ally, when the lodging-houses are crowded. In summer 
the tow-path and the country attract their share of the 
bigger boys. The " Sunday-school racket " has ceased to 
have teri'or for them. They follow the proceedings with 
the liveliest interest, quick to detect cant of any sort, 
shonld any stray in. Xo one has any just conception of 
what congregation a! singing is until lie has witnessed a 
TOomful of these boys roll np their sleeves and start in 
on " I am a lily of the valley." The swinging trapeze in 
the gymnasium on the top floor is scarcely more popular 
with the boys than this tremendously vocal worship. The 
Street Arab puts liis whole little soul into what interests 
him for the moment, wliether it be pulverizing a rival 
wlio has done a mean trick to a smaller boy, or attending 
at the "gospel shop" on Sundays. This characteristic 
made necessary some extra supervision when recently 
the lads in the Duane Street Lodging House "chipped 
in " and bought a set of boxing gloves. The trapeze 
suffered a temporary eclipse until this new toy had been 
tested to the extent of several miniature black eyes 
upon which soap had no effect, and sundry little scores 
had been settled that evened things up, as it were, for a 
fresh start. 

I tried one night, not with the best of success I con- 
fess, to photograph the boys in their wash-room, while 
they were cleaning up for supper. They were quite tur- 
bulent, to the disgust of one of their number who assumed, 
unasked, the office of general manager of the show, and 
expressed his mortification to me in very polite language. 




" If they would only behave, sir I " he complained, "yoa 
could make a good picture." 

" Yes," I said, " but it isn't in them, I suppose." 
" No, Vgoah • " said he, lapsing suddenly from grace 
under the provocation, " them kida ain't got no sense, 
nohow ! " 

The Society maintains five of these boys' lodging houses, 
and one for girls, in the city. The Duane Street Lodging 
House alone has sheltered since its foundation in 1855 
nearly a quarter of a million different boys, at a total ex- 
pense of a good deal less than half a million dollars. Of 
this amount, np to the beginning of tlie present year, the 
boys and the earnings of the house had contributed no less 
than 1172,776.38. In all of the lodging-lionses together, 
12,153 boys and girls were sheltered and taught last year. 
The boys saved up no inconsiderable amount of money in 
the savings banks provided for them in the houses, a sim- 
ple system of lock-boxes that are emptied for their benefit 
once a month. Besides these, the Society has established 
and operates in the tenement districts twenty-one indus- 
tiial schools, co-ordinate with the public schools in author- 
■ ity, for the children of the poor who cannot find room 
in the city's school-liouses, or are too ragged to go there ; 
two free reading-rooms, a dressmaking and typewriting 
school and a laundry for the instruction of girls ; a siek- 
cbildren's mission in the city and two on the sea-shore, 
where poor motiiers may take their babies ; a cottage by 
tiie sea for crippled girls, and a brash factory for crippled 
boys in Forty -fourth Street. Tlie Italian school in Leonard 
Street, alone, had an average attendance of over six hun- 
dred pupils last year. The daily average attendance at all 
of them was 4,105, while 11,331 children were registered 
and taught. When the fact that there were among these 

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1,132 children of drunken parents, and 416 that had been 
■found begging in the street, is contrasted witli the show- 
ing of $1,337.21 deposited in t!ie school savings banks by 
1,745 pupils, something like an adequate idea is gained of 
the scope of the Society's work in the city. 

A large share of it, in a sense the largest, certainly that 
productive of the happiest results, lies outside of the city, 
however. From the lodging-houses and the schools are 
di-awn the battalions of young emigrants that go every 
year to homes in the Far West, to grow up self-supporting 
men and women safe from the temptations and the vice 
of the city. Their number runs far up in the thousands. 
The Society never loses sight of them. The records show 
that the great mass, with this start given them, become 
nseful citizens, an honor to the communities in which 
their lot is cast. Not a few achieve place and prominence 
in tlieir new surroundings. Karoly bad reports come of 
them. Occasionally one comes back, lured by Iiomesick- 
nesB even for the slums ; but the briefest stay generally 
cures the disease for good. I helped once to see a party 
off for Michigan, the last sent out by that great friend of 
the homeless children, Mrs. Astor, before she died. In ' 
the party was a boy who liad been an "Insider" at the 
Five Points House of Industry, and brought along as his 
only ba^age s padlocked and iron-bound box that con- 
tained all his wealth, two little white mice of the fi-iend- 
liest disposition. They were going with liini out to live 
on the fat of the land iii tlie fertile "West, where they 
would never be wanting foi' a cVnst. Alas ! for the best- 
laid plans of mice and men. The Western diet did not 
agree with either. I saw their owner some months later 
in the old home at the Five Points. He had come back, 
walking part of the way, and was now pleading to be sent 

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out onee more. He iiad at last had enough of the city. 
His face fell when I asked him about the mice. It was 
a sad story, indeed. " Tliey liad so iniicli corn to eat," he 
said, "and tliey couldn't stand it. They burned all up 
inside, and then they busted." 

Mrs. Astor set an example during her noble and useful 
life in gathering every year a company of homelese boys 
from the streets and sending thera to good homes, witli 
decent clothes on their backs — she had sent out no less 
than thirteen hundred when she died, and left funds to 
carry on her work — that has been followed by many who, 
like her, had t!ie means and the heart for such a labor of 
love. Most of the lodging-houses and school-buildings of 
the society were built by some one rich man or woman 
who paid all the bills, aiid often objected to have even tlie 
name of the giver made known to the world. It is one of 
the pleasant experiences of life that give one hope and 
courage in the midst of all this misery to find names, tliat 
stand to tlie unthinking mass only for money-getting and 
grasping, associated with such unheralded benefactions 
that carry their blessings down to generations yet unborn. 
It is not so long since i found the carriage of a woman, 
whose name is synonymous with millions, standing in 
front of the boys' lodging-house in Thirty-fifth Street. 
Its owner was at that moment-busy with a surgeon mak- 
ing a census of the crippled lads in the brush-shop, the 
most miserable of ail the Society's charges, as a prelim- 
inary to fitting them out with artificial limbs. 

Farther uptown than any reared by the Children's Aid 
Society, in Sixty-seventh Street, stands a lodging-house 
intended for boys of a somewhat larger growth than most 
of those whom the Society shelters. Unlike the others, 
too, it was built by the actual labor of the young men it 

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i to benefit. In the day when more of the 
boys from our streets shall find their way to it and to tlie 
New York Trade Schools, of which it is a kind of home 
annex, we sliall be in a fair way of solving in the most 
natural of all ways the question what to do with this boy, 
in spite of the iguoratit opposition of the men whose ty- 
rannical policy is now to blame for the showing that, out 
of twenty-three millions of dollars paid annually to me- 
chanics in the bniiding trades in this city, less tlian six 
millions go to the workman born in New York, while his 
boy roams the streets with every chance of growing up a 
vagabond and next to none of becoming an honest artisan. 
Colonel Auehmuty is a practical philanthropist to whom 
tlie growing youth of New York will one day owe a debt 
of gratitude not easily paid. The progress of the system 
of trade schools established by him, at which a young man 
may acquire the theory as well as the practice of a trade 
in a few months at a merely nominal outlay, has not been 
nearly as I'apid as was to be desired, though the fact that 
other cities are copying the model, with their master me- 
chanics as the prime movers in the enterprise, testifies to 
its excellence. But it has at last taken a real start, and 
with union men and even the officers of unions now send- 
ing their sons to the trade schools to be taught,* one 
may perhaps be permitted to hope that an era of better 
sense is dawning that shall witness a rescue work upon 
lines which, when the leaven has fairly had time to work, 
will put an end to the existence of the New York Street 
Arab, of the native breed at least. 
* Colonel Anohmufcy's ■ 




WHERE God builds a c)iurch the devil builds next 
door — a Baloon, is an old sayiug tliat has lost its 
point in Xew York. Either the devil was on the ground 
fii'st, or he has been doing a good deal Jiioi'e in the \^-ay of 
bnilding. I tried once to find out how the acconot stood, 
and counted to 111 Protestant ehurclies, chapels, and 
places of worship of every bind beiow Fourteenth Street, 
4,065 saloons. The worst half of the tenement population 
lives down there, and it has to this day the worst half of 
the saloons. Uptown the account stands a little better, 
but there are easily ten saloons to every church to-day. 
I am afraid, too, that the congregations are larger by a 
good deal ; certainly the attendance is steadier and the 
contributions more liberal the week round, Sunday in- 
eluded. Turn and twist it as we may, over against every 
buhvark for decency and morality which society erects, the 
saloon projects its colossal shadow, omen of evil wherever 
it falls into the lives of the poor. 

Nowhere is its mark so broad or so black. To their 
misery it sticketh closer than a brother, persuading them 
that within its doors only is refuge, relief. It has the 
best of the argument, too, for it is trne, worse pity, that 
in many a tenement-house block the saloon is the one 
bright and cheery and humanly decent spot to be found. 

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It is a sorry admission to make, that to bring the rest of 
the neighborhood up to the level of the saloon would be 
one way of squelching it ; but it is bo. Wherever the 
tenements thicken, it multiplies. Upon the direst poverty 
of their crowds it grows fat and prosperous, levying upon it 
a tax heavier than all the rest of its grievous burdens com- 
bined. It is not yet two years since the Excise Board 
made the rule that no three corners of any street- crossing, 
not already so occupied, should thenceforward be licensed 
for mm-selling. And the tardy prohibition was intended 
for the tenement districts. Nowhere else is there need of 
it. One may walk many miles through the homes of the 
poor searching vainly for an open reading-room, a cheer- 
ful coffee-house, a deeentclub that is not a cloak for the 
traffic in rum. The dramshop yawns at every step, the 
poor man's club, his forum and his haven of rest when 
weary and disgusted with the crowding, the quarrelling, 
and the wretchedness at home. With the poison dealt 
out there he takes his politics, in quality not far apart. 
As the source, so the stream. The rumshop turns the 
political crank iii New York, The natural yield is rum 
politics. Of what that means, successive Boards of Alder- 
men, composed in a measure, if not of a majority, of dive- 
keepers, have given New York a taste. The disgi-ace of 
the infamous " Boodle Board " will be remembered until 
some corruption even fouler crops out and throws it into 
the shade. 

What relation the. saloon bears to the crowds, let me il- 
histrate by a comparison. Below Fourteenth Street were, 
when the Health Department took its first accurate census 
of the tenements a year and a half ago, 13,220 of the 32,- 
390 buildings classed as such in the whole city. Of the 
eleven hundred thousand tenants, not quite half a million, 



embracing a liosfc of more tlian sixty-tln-ee thousand chil- 
dren under five years of age, lived beiow tliat line. Be- 
low it, also, were 234 of the cheap lodgiug-Iiouses ac- 
counted for by the police last year, with a total of four 
millions and a half of lodgers for tlie twelvemonth, 59 of 
the city's 110 pawnshops, and 4,065 of its 7,884 saloons. 
T)ie four most densely peopled precincts, the Fourth, 
Sixth, Tenth, and Eleventh, supported together in round 
numbers twelve hundred saloons, and theii' returns showed 
twenty-seven per cent, of the whole number of arrests for 
the year. The Eleventh Precinct, that has the greatest 
and the poorest crowds of all — it is the Tenth Ward — and 
harbored one-third of the army of Jiomeless lodgers and 
fourteen per cent, of all the prisoners of the year, kept 485 
saloons going in 1889. It is not on record that one of 
them all failed for want of support. A number of them, 
on the contrary, had brought their owners wealth and 
prominence. From their bars these eminent citizens 
stepped proudly into the councils of the city and the State. 
■The very floor of one of the bar-rooms, in a neighborhood 
that lately resounded with the cry for bread of starving 
workmen, is paved with silver dollars ! 

East Side poverty is not alone in thns rewarding the ty- 
rants that sweeten its cup of bitterness with then- treach- 
erous poison. The Fourth Ward points with pride to the 
Iionorable record of tlie conductors of its " Tub of Blood," 
and a dozen bar-rooms with less startling titles ; the West 
Side to the wealth and " social " standing of the owners of 
such resorts as tlie " Witches' Broth " and the " Plug Hat " 
in the region of Hell's Kitchen three-cent whiskey, names 
ominous of the concoctions brewed there and of their fa- 
tally generous measure. Another ward, that boasts some 
of tlie best residences and the bluest blood on Manhattan 

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Island, honors with political leadership in the ruliog party 
the proprietor of one of the most disreputable Black-and- 
Tan dives and dancing-hells to be found anywhere. 
Criminals and policemen alike do him homage. The list 
might be strung out to make texts for sermons with 
a stronger home flavor than many that are preached in 
our pulpits on Sunday. Ent I have not set ont to write 
tlie political history of New York. Besides, the list would 
not be complete. Secret dives are sknlking in the slums 
and out of them, that are not labelled respectable by a 
Board of Excise and support no " family entrance." Their 
business, like that of the stale-beer dives, is done through 
a side-door the week tlirongh. No one knows the number 
of unlicensed saloons in the city. Those who have made 
the matter a study estimate it at a thousand, more or less. 
The police make occasional schedules of a few and report 
them to headquarters. Perhaps there is a farce in the 
police court, and there the matter ends, Hum and " in- 
fluence "are synonymous terms. The interests of the one 
rarely suffer for the want of attention from the other. 

With the exception of these free iances that treat the 
law openly with contempt, the saloons all hang out a sign 
announcing in fat type that no beer or liquor is sold to 
children. In the down-town " morgues " tliat make the 
lowest degradation of tramp-humanity pan out a paying 
interest, as in the " reputable resorts " uptown wliere In- 
spector Byrncs's men spot their worthier quarry elbowing 
Giti_zen8 whom the idea of associating with a burglar would 
give a shock they would not get over for a week, this sign 
is seen conspicuously displayed. Though apparently it 
means submission to a beneficent law, in reality the sign 
is a heartless, cruel joke. I doubt if one child in a thou- 
sand, who brings his gj'owler to be filled at the average 

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New York bar, is sent away empty-handed, if able to pay 
for wliat he wants. I once followed a little boy, who 
shivered in bare feet on a cold November night so that 
he seemed in danger of smashing his pitcher on the icy 
pavement, into a Mulberry Street saloon where just such a 
sign hung on the wall, and forbade the barkeeper to serve 
the boy. The man was as astonished at my interference 
as if I had told him to shnt np his shop and go home, 
which in fact I might have done witli as good a right, for 
it was after 1 a.m., the legal closing lionr. He was migh- 
ty indignant too, and told me roughly to go away and 
mind my business, wliile he filled the pitcher. The law 
prohibiting the selling of beer to minors is about as much 
respected in the tenemcnt-honae districts as the ordinance 
against swearing. Newspaper readers will i-ecall the 
story, told little more than a year ago, of a boy who after 
carrying beer a whole day £oi' a shopfnl of men over on 
the East Side, where his father worked, crept into the cel- 
lar to sleep off the effects of his own share in the rioting. 
It was Saturday evening, Sunday his parents sought him 
high and low ; but it was not until Monday morning, 
when the shop was opened, that he was found, killed and 
half-eaten by the rats that overi-an the place. 

Ail the evii the saloon does in breeding poverty and 
in corrupting politics ; all the suffering it brings into the 
lives of its thousands of innocent victims, the wives and 
cliildren of drunkards it sends forth to curse the commu- 
nity ; its fostering of crime and its shielding of criminals — 
it is all as nothing to this, its worst offence. In its affinity 
for the thief there is at least this compensation that, as it 
makes, it also unmakes him. It starts him on his career 
only to trip him up and betray him into the hands of the 
law, when the rum he exchanged for his honesty has stolen 



his brains as well. For the corniption of the cliild there 
is no restitution. None is possible. It saps the very 
vitals of society ; uadennines its strongest defences, and 
delivers them over to the enemy. Fostered and filled by 
" the saloon, the " growler " looms up in the Kew York 
street boy's life, baffling the most persistent efforts to re- 
daiin him. There is no escape from it ; no hope for the 
boy, once its blighting grip is upon Iiini. Tiienceforward 
the logic of the shims, that the world which gave him pov- 
erty and ignorance for his portion " owes him a living," is 
his creed, and the career of the " tough " lies open before 
him, a beaten track to be blindly followed to a bad end in 
the wake of the growler. 

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ri'lHE " growler " stood at the cradle of the tongh. It 
■*- bosses him through his boyhood appreutieesliip in the 
"gang," and' leaves him, for a time only, at the door of 
the jail that receives him to finish his training and turn 
him loose upon the world a thief, to collect by stealth or 
by force the living his philosophy tella him that it owes 
him, and will not voluntarily surrender withont an equiva- 
lent in the work which he hates. From the moment he, 
almost a baby, for the fii-st time carries the growler for 
beer, he is never out of its reach, and the two soon form 
a partnership that lasts through life. It has at least the 
merit, such as it is, of being loyal. The saloon is the only 
thing that takes kindly to the lad. Honest play is inter- 
dicted in the streets. The policeman arrests the ball-tossers, 
and there is no room in the back-yard. In one of these, 
between two enormous tenements that swarmed with chil- 
dren, I read this ominous notice: "All hoya caught in 
this yard will he delt with acoorden to law" 

Along the water-fronta, in the holes of the dock-rats, 
and on the avenues, the young tough finds plenty of kin- 
dred spirits. Every corner has its gang, not always on the 
best of terms with the rivals in the next block, but all 
with a common programme : defiance of law and order, 
and with a common ambition : to get " pinched," i.e., ar- 
rested, so as to pose as heroes before their fellows. A 

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successful raid on the grocer's till is a good mark, " doing 
up " a policeman canse for promotion. The gang ie an in- 
stitution in New York. The police deny its existence 
while nursing the bruises received in nightly battles with 
it that tax their utmost resources. The newspapers chron- 
icle its doings daily, with a sensational minuteness of de- 
tail tliat does its share toward keeping up its evil tradi- 
tions and inflaming the ambition of its members to be as 
bad as the worst. The gang is the ripe fruit of tenement- 
house growth. It was born there, endowed with a herit- 
age of instinctive hostility to restraint by a generation 
that saci'ificed home to freedom, or left its comitry for its 
country's good. The tenement received and imrsed the 
seed. The intensity of tiie American temper stood spon- 
sor to the murderer in what would have been the common 
" bruiser " of a more phlegmatic clime. New York's 
tough represents the esseiiee of reaction against the old 
and the new oppression, imrsed in the rank soil of its 
slums. Its gangs are made up of the American-born sons 
of English, Irish, and German parents. They reflect ex- 
actly the conditions of the tenements from which they 
sprang. Murder is as congenial to Clierry Street or to 
Battle Row, as quiet and order to Murray Hill. The " as- 
similation " of Europe's oppressed hordes, npon which our 
Fourth of July oratoi'S are fond of dwelling, is perfect. 
The product is our own. 

Such is the genesis of New York's gangs. Their his- 
tory is not so easily written. It would embrace the larg- 
est share of our city's criminal history for two genera- 
tions back, every page of it dyed red with blood. The 
guillotine Paris set up a century ago to avenge its wrongs 
was not more relentless, or less discriminating, than this 
^Nemesis of New York. The difference is of intent. 

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Murder with that was the serious purpose ; with ours it 
is the careless incident, the wanton brutality of the mo- 
ment. Bravado and robbery are the real purposes of the 
gangs; the former prompts tlie attack upon the police- 
man, the latter that upon the citizen. Within a single 
week last spring, the newspapers recorded six murderous 
assaults on unoffending people, committed by young high- 
waymen in the public streets. How many more were 
suppressed by the police, who always do their utmost to 
hush up such outrages " in the interests of justice," I ehall 
not say. There has been no lack of such occurrences since, 
as the records of the criminal courts show. In fact, the 
past summer has seen, after a period of comparative 
quiescence of the gangs, a reawakening to I'enewed tur- 
bulence of the East Side tribes, and over and over again 
the reserve forces of a precinct have been called out to 
club them into submission. It is a peculiarity of the 
gangs that they usually bi'eak out in spots, as it were. 
When tiie West Side is in a state of eruption, the East Side 
gangs " lie low," and when tlie toughs along the North 
River are nursing bi-oken lieads at home, or their revenge 
in Sing Sing, fresh trouble breaks out in the tenements 
east of Third Avenue. This result is brought about by the 
very efforts made by the police to put down the gangs. 
In spite of local feuds, there is between them a species of 
ruffianly Freemasonry that readily admits to full fellow- 
ship a hunted rival in the face of the common enemy. 
The gangs belt tiie city like a huge chain from the Bat- 
tery to Harlein~the collective name of the " chain gang" 
has been given to their scattered groups in tiie belief that 
a much closer connection exists between them than com- 
monly supposed — and the ruffian for whom the East Side 
has became too hot, has only to step across town and 


change his name, a matter usually much easier for him 
than to change his sliirt, to find a sanctnary in which to 
plot fresh outrages. The more notorious lie is, the warmer 
the welcome, and if lie has " done " his man he is by 
common consent accorded the leadership in his new field. 
From all this it might be inferred that the TTew York 
tough is a veiy fiei'ce individual, of indomitable courage 
and naturally as blood-thirsty as a tiger. On the contrary 
lie is an arrant coward. His instincts of ferocity ai'e 
those of the wolf rather than the tiger. It is only when 
he hunts with the pack that he is dangerous. Then Iiis 
inoi-dinate vanity makes him forget all fear or caution in 
the desire to distinguish liimself before liis fellows, a 
result of his swallowing all the flash literature and penny- 
dreadfuls he can beg, boiTOw, or steal — and tliere is never 
any lack of them — and of the strongly dramatic element 
in his nature tJiat is nursed by such a diet into rank and 
morbid gi-owth. He is a queer bundle of contradictions 
at all times. Drunk and foul-moutlied, ready to cut the 
throat of a defenceless stranger at the toss of a cent, fresh 
from beating his decent mother black and blue to get money 
for rum,* he will resent as an intolerable insult the imputa- 
tion that he is " no gentleman." Fighting hie battles 
with the coward's weapons, the brass-knuckles and the 
deadly sand-bag, or with bnck-bats fi'om the housetops, 

* This very mother will implore the court with tears, the next morn- 
ing, to let her renegade son off. A poor woman, who claimed to be the 
widow of a soldier, applied to the TenemBnt- house Relief CommittBe of 
The King's Daughters last summer, to be sent to Borne home, as she had 
neither kith nor kin to care for her. Upon investigation it was found 
that she had four big sons, all toughs, who beat her regularly and took 
from her all the money she could earn or beg ; she was "a respectable 
woman, of good habits," the inquiry developed, and Ued only to shield 
her rascally sons. 



he is 6till in all Berionsness a lover of fair play, and as 
likely as not, when his gang has downed a policeman in a 
battle that has cost a dozen broken heads, to be found next 
saving a drowning child or woman at the peril of his own 
life. It depends on the angle at which he is seen, whether 
he is a cowardly niffiiiii, or a possible hero with different 
training and under different social conditions. Ready wit 
he has at all times, and there is less meaniiess hi his make- 
up than in that of tiie bully of the London slums; but an 
intense love of show and applause, that carries him to any 
length of bravado, whicli his twin-brother across the sea 
entii-ely lacks. I have a very vivid recollection of seeing 
one of liis tribe, a robber and murderer before he was 
nineteen, go to the gallows unmoved, all fear of the rope 
ovei'come, as it seemed, by tiie secret, exultant pride of 
being the centre of a lirst-class siiow, shortly to be fol- 
lowed by that acme of tenement-life bliss, a big funeral. 
He had his reward. His name is to this day a talisman 
among West Side ruffians, and is proudly borne by the 
gang of which, up till the night when he " knocked out 
his man," he was an obscure though aspiring member. 

The crime that made McGloin famous was the coward- 
ly murder of an nnarmed saloonkeeper who came upon 
the gang while it was sacking his bar-room at the dead of 
night. McGloin might easily have fled, but disdained to 
"run for a Dutchman." His act was a fair measure of 
the standard of heroism set up by his class in its conflicts 
with society. The finish is worthy of the stirt. The fii'st 
long step in crime taken by the half-gi-own boy, fired with 
ambition to earn a standing in his gang, is nsualiy to rob 
a " lush," i.e., a drunken man who has strayed his way, 
likely enough ie lying asleep in a hallway. He has served 
an apprenticeship on copper-bottom wash-boilere and like 

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articles found lying around loose, and capable o£ being 
converted into cash enough to give the growler a trip or 
two ; but his first venture at robbery moves him up into 
full fellowship at once. He is no longer a "kid," though 
his years may be few, but a tough with the rest. He may 
even in time — he is reasonably certain of it — get his name 
in the papers as a murderous scoundrel, and have his cup 
of glory filled to the brim. I came once upon a gang of 
such young rascals passing the growler after a successful 
raid of some sort, down at the West Thirty-seventh Street 
dock, and, having my camera along, offered to "take" 
them. They were not old and wary enough to be shy of 
the photographer, whose acquaintance they usually first 
make in liandcuiTs and the grip of a policeman ; oi' theii' 
vanity overcame their caution. It is entirely in keeping 
with the tough's character that lie should love of all 
things to pose before a photographer, and the ambition is 
usually the stronger the more repulsive tiie tough, Tliese 
were of that sort, and accepted the offer with great readi- 
ness, dragging into their gi-onp a disi'eputable-looking sheep 
that roamed about with them (the slaughter-houses were 
close at hand) as one of the band. The homeliest ruffian 
of the lot, who insisted on being taken with the growler to 
his " mug," took the opportunity to pour wliat was left in 
it down his throat and this caused a brief unpleasantness, 
but otherwise the performance was a success. "VVliile I 
was getting the camera ready,! threw out a vague sugges- 
tion of cigarette pictures, and it took root at once. Jsotli- 
ing would do then but that I must take the boldest spirits 
of the company " in character." One of them tumbled over 
against a shed, as if asleep, while two of the others bent 
over him, searching his pockets with a deftness that was 
highly su^estive. This, they explained for my benefit, 

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was to sliow how tliey " did tlie ti-ick." The rest of the 
band were so impreesed with the importance o£ this ex- 
hibition that thej insisted on crowding into the picture by 
climbing upon the slied, sitting on tiie roof witli their feet 
dangling over the edge, and disposing theinseJves in every 
imaginable manner within view, as they thought. Lest 
any reader be led into the error of supposing them to have 
been harmless young fellows enjoying themselves in peace, 
let me say that within half an hour after our meeting, 
when I eaUed at the police station three blocks away, I 
found there two of my friends of the "Montgomery 
Guards" under arrest for robbing a .Tewish pedlar who 
had passed that way after I left them, and trying to saw 
his head off, as they put it, "just for fun. The sheeny 
cum along an' the saw was there, an' we socked it to 
liim," The prisoners were described to me by the police 
as Dennis, " the Bum," and " Mud " Foley, 

It is not always that their little diversions end as harm- 
lessly as did this, even from the standpoint of tlie Jew, 
who was pretty badly hnrt. Not far from the preserves 
of the Montgomery Guards, in Poverty Gap, directly op- 
posite the scene of the murder to whicli I have referred 
in a note explaining the picture of the Cunningltam faiu- 
ily (p. 169), a young lad, who was the only support of his 
aged parents, was beaten to death within a few months by 
the " Alley Gang," for the same offence that drew down 
the displeasure of its neighbors upon the pedlar ; that of 
being at work trying to earn an honest living. I found a 
part of the gang asleep the next morning, before young 
Healey's death was known, in a heap of straw on the floor 
of an unoccupied room in the same row of rear tenements 
in which the murdered boy's home was. One of the ten- 
ants, who secretly directed me to their lair, assuring me 

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that no worse ecoundrels went unhung, ten minutes later 
gave the gang, to its face, an official cliaraeter for sobriety 
and inofEensivenesB that very nearly startled me int-o an 
unguarded rebuke of his dopiieity. I caught his eye in 
time and held my peace. The man was simply trying to 
protect liis own home, while giving such aid as he safely 
could toward bi'inging the murderous ruffians to justice. 
The incident shows to what extent a neighborhood may 
be terrorized by a determined gang of these reckless 

In Poverty Gap there were still a few decent people 
]ef t. "When it comes to Hell's Kitchen, or to its compeers 
at the other end of Tliirty-ninth Street over by the East 
Eiver, and further down First Avenue in " the Village," 
the Kag Gang and its allies have no need of fearing 
treachery in their periodical battles with the police. The 
entire neighborhood takes a hand on these occasions, the 
women in tlie front rank, partly from sheer love of the 
"fun," but chiefly because husbands, brothers, and sweet- 
hearts are in tlie fight to a man and need their help. 
Chimney-tops form the staple of ammunition then, and 
stacks of loose brick and paving-stones, carefully hoarded 
in upper rooms as a prudent provision against emergen- 
cies. Kegular patrol posts are established by the police 
on the housetops in times of troiible in these localities, 
but even then they do not escape whole-skinned, if, in- 
deed, witli their lives ; neither does the gang. The 
policeman knows of but one cure for the tough, the chib, 
and he lays it on without stint whenever and wherever he 
has the chance, knowing right well that, if caught at a 
disadvantage, he will get his outlay back with interest. 
Words are worse than wasted in the gang-districts. It is 
a blow at sight, and the tough thus accosted never stops 

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to ask queetione. Unless lie is " wanted " for some signal 
outrage, the policeman rarely bothers with arresting him. 
lie can point out half a dozen at sight against whom in ■ 
dicitments are pending by the basketful, but whom no jail 
ever held many liours. They only serve to make him 
more reckless, for he knows that the political backing that 
has saved him in the past can do it again. It is a commo- 
dity tliat is only exchangeable "for value received," and 
it is not liard to imagine what sort of value is in demand. 
The saloon, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, stands 
behind the bargain. 

For these reasons, aa well as because he knows from fre- 
quent experience his own way to be the best, the police- 
man lets the gangs alone except when they come within 
reacli of liis long night-stick. They have their "ehib- 
rooms" where they meet, generally in a tenement, some- 
times under a pier or a dump, to carouse, play cards, and 
plan their raids ; their " fences," who dispose of the 
stolen property. Wiien the necessity presents itself for 
a descent upon the gang after some particularly flagrant 
outrage, the police have a tasli on hand that is not of the 
easiest. The gangs, like foxes, have more than one hole 
to their dens. In some localities, where the interior of a 
block is filled with rear tenements, often set at all sorts of 
odd angles, surprise alone is practicable. Pursuit through 
the winding ways and passages is impossible. The young 
thieves know them all by heart. They have their runways 
over roofs and fences which no one else could find. 
Their lair is generally selected with special refei-enec to 
its possibilities of escape. Once pitciied upon, its occupa- 
tion by the gang, with its ear-mark of nightly symposiums, 
" can-rackets" in the slang of the street, is the signal for 
a rapid deterioration of the tenement, if that is possible. 

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Belief is only to be Iiad by ousting the intruders. An 
instance came under my notice in which valuable property 
had been weli-nigh ruined by being made the thorough- 
fare of thieves by night and by day. They liad chosen it 
because of a passage that led through the block by way 
of several connecting hulls and yards. The place came 
soon to be known as " Murderers Alley." Complaint was 
made to the Board of Health, as a last resort, of the con- 
dition of the property. The practical inspector who was 
sent to report upon it suggested to the owner that he 
build a brick-wall in a place where it would shut off com- 
munication between the streets, and he took the advice. 
Within the brief space of a few months the house changed 
character entirely, and became as decent as it had been 
before the convenient runway was discovered. 

This was in the Sixth Ward, wiiei'e the infamous Whyo 
Gang until a few years ago absorbed the worst depravity 
of the Bend and what is left of the Five Points. The 
gang was finally broken up when its leader was hanged for 
murder after a life of unuiterrupted and unavenged 
crimes, the recital of which made his father confessor turn 
pale, listening in the shadow of the scaffold, though many 
yeai-s of labor as chaplain of the Tombs liad hardened him 
to such rehearsals. The great Whyo had been a " power 
in the ward," handy at carrying elections for the party or 
faction that happened to stand in need of his services and 
was willing to pay for them in money or in bind. Other 
gangs have sprung np since with as high ambition and 
a fair prospect of outdoing their predecessor. The con- 
ditions that bred it still exist, practically unchanged. 
Inspector Byrnes is authority for the statement that 
throughout the city the young tough has more " ability" 
and " nerve " than the thief whose example he successfully 



emulates. He begins earlier, too. Speaking of the 
increase of the native element among criminal prisoners 
exhibited in the census returns of the last thirtj^ jeare,* 
the Rev. Fred. H. Wines says, '■ their youth is a very 
striking fact." Had lie confined his observations to the 
police courts of New York, he might have emphasized 
that i-eniark and found an explanation of tlie discovery 

that " the ratio of prisoners in cities is two and one-quarter 
times as great as in the country at large," a computation 
that takes no account of the reformatories for juvenile 
delinquents, or the exhibit would have been still more 
striking. Of the 83,200 persons arrested by the police in 

• "The percentage of foreigii-borii priaoners in 1850. as compared 
nith that of natives, was more than five times that of native prisoners, 
DOW (1880) it ia less than double." — American Prisons iu the Tenth 



1889, 10,505 were under twenty years old. Tlie last 
I'eport of tlie Society foi' tlie' Prevention of Cruelty to 
Cliildren enumerates, as " a few typical cases," eighteen 
" professional cracksmen," between nine and fifteen years 
old, wiio had been caught with burglars' tools, or in the act 
of robbery. Four of them, hardly -yet in long trousers, 
had " held up " a wayfarer in the public street and robbed 
him of $73. One, aged sixteen, "was the leader of a 
noted gang of young robbers in Forty-nintli Street. He 
committed murder, for which he is now serving a terra of 
nineteen years in State's Prison." Four of the eighteen 
were girls and quite as bad as the worst. In a few years 
they would have been living with the toughs of their 
choice without the ceremony of a marriage, egging them 
on by their pride in their lawless achievements, and fight- 
ing side by side witli them in their encounters with the 
" cops." 

The exploits of the Paradise Park Gang in the way of 
highway robbery showed last summer that the embers of 
the scattered Whyo Gang, upon the wreck of which it 
. grew, were smouldering still. The hanging of DriscoU 
bi-oke up the "Whyos because they were a comparatively 
small band, and, with the incomparable master-spirit 
gone, were unable to I'esist the angry rush of public in- 
dignation that followed the crowning outrage. This is the 
history of the passing away of famous gangs from time to 
time. The passing is more apparent than real, however. 
Some other daring leader gathers the scattered elements 
about him soon, and the war on society is resumed. A 
bare enumeration of the names of the best-known gangs 
would occupy pages of tiiis book. The Rock Gang, the 
Kag Gang, the Stable Gang, and the Short Tail Gang 
down about the " Hook " have all achieved bad e 



along witli eeores of others that have not paraded so fre- 
quently in the newspapei'sl By day they loaf in the cor- 
iier-groggeries on their beat, at night they plunder the 
stores along the avenues, or lie in wait at the river for un- 
steady feet straying tlieir way. The man who is sober 
and minds his own business they seldom molest, unless he 
be a stranger inquiring his way, or a policeman and the 
gang twenty against the one. The tipsy wayfarer is tlteii' 
diDsen victim, and they eeldom have to look for him 
long. One has not far to go to the river from any point 
in New York. The man who does not know where he is 
going is snre to reacli it sooner or later. Shonld he fool- 
ishly resist or make an outcry— dead men tell no tales. 
" Floaters " come ashore every now and then with pockets 
turned inside out, not always evidence of a post-mortem 
inspection by dock-rats. Police patrol the rivers as 
well as the shore on constant look-out for these, but sel- 
dom catch up with tliem. If overtaken after a race dur- 
ing which shots are often exchanged from the boats, the 
thieves have an easy way of escaping and at the same 
time destroying the evidence against them ; they simply 
upset the boat. They swim, one and all, like real rats ; 
the lost plunder can be recovered at leisure the next day 
by diving or grappling. The loss of the boat counts for 
little. Another is stolon, and the gang is ready for busi- 
ness again. 

The fiction of a social " club," which most of the gangs 
keep up, helps them to a pretext for blackmailing the poli- 
ticians and the storekeepers in their bailiwick at the an- 
nual seasons of their picnic, or ball. The " thieves' bal! " 
is as well known and recognized an institution on the East 
Side as the Charity Ball in a different social stratum, al- 
though it does not go by that name, in print at least. 

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Indeed, the last thing a New York tough will admit is 
that he ie a thief. He dignifies bis calling with tlie pre- 
tence of gambling. He does not steal : he " wins " your 
money or your watch, and on the police returns he is a 

" voluntary " eon tribnt ions, any storekeeper shonld have 
the temerity to refuse to chip in, he may look for a visit 
from the gang on the first dark night, and account himself 
lucky if his place escapes being altogether wrecked. The 
Hell's Kitchen Gang and the Rag Gang have both distin- 



guislied themselves within recent times by blowing up ob- 
jectionable stores with stolen gunpowder. But if no such 
episode. mar the celebration, the excursion comes off and 
is the occasion for a series of drunkeo fights that as likely 
as not end in murder. No season lias passed within my 
memory that has not seen the police reserves called out to 
receive some howling pandemonium returning from a pie- 
nie grove on the Hudson or on the Sound; At least one 
peaceful community up the river, that had borne witli this 
nuisanee until patience had ceased to be a virtue, received 
a boat-load of such pienickers in a style befitting the 'occa- 
sion and the cargo. The outr^ed citizens planted a 
howitzer on the dock, and bade the party land at their 
peril. With the loaded gun pointed dead at them, the 
furious toughs gave iip and the peace was not broken 
on the Hudson that day, at least not ashore. It is good 
cause for congratulation that the woi'st of all forms of re- 
creation popular among the city's toughs, the moonlight 
picnic, has been effectually discouraged. Its opportuni- 
ties for disgraceful revelry and immorality were unrivalled 

In spite of influence and, protection, the tough reaches 
eventually the end of liis rope. Occasionally — not too 
often — there is a noose on it. If not, the world that owes 
him a living, according to his creed, will insist on his earn- 
ing it on the safe side of a prison wall. A few, a vei'y few, 
have been clubbed into an approach to righteousness from 
the police standpoint. The condemned tough goes up to 
serve his " bit " or couple of " stretches," followed by the 
applause of his gang. In the prison he meets older 
thieves than himself, and sits at their feet listening with 
respectful admiration to their accounts of the great do- 
ings that sent them before. He returns with the brand 

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of the jail upon him, to encounter the hero-worship of his 
old associates as an offset to the cold shoulder given him 
by all the rest of the world. Even if he is willing to 
work, disgusted with the restraint and hard labor of 
prison life, and in a majority of cases that thought is 
probably uppermost in his mind, no one will have him 
around. If, with the assistance of Inspector Byrnes, who 
is a philanthropist in liis own practical way, he secures a 
job, he is discharged on the slightest provocation, and for 
the most trifling fault. Very soon he sinks back into his 
old surroundings, to rise no more until he is lost to view 
ill the queer, mysterious way in which thieves and fallen 
women disappear. No one can tell how. In the ranks 
of criminals he never rises above that of the " laborer," 
the small thief or burglar, or general crook, who blindly 
does the work planned for him by others, and rnns the 
biggest risk for the poorest pay. It cannot be said that 
the " growler " brought him luck, or its friendship fort- 
une. And yet, if his misdeeds have helped to make man- 
ifest that all effort to reclaim his kind must begin with - 
the conditions of life against which his very existence is 
en the tough has not lived in vain. This 
t of credit at least should be accorded him, that, 
with or without his good-will, he has been a factor in 
urging on the battle against the slums that bred him. 
It is a fight in which eternal vigilance is truly the price 
of liberty and the preservation of society. 




i~\^ the harvest o£ tares, sown in iniquity and reaped 
^-^ in wrath, the police refcnnia tell the story. The pen 
tliat wi-ote tiie " Song of the Shirt " is needed to tell of 
the sad and toil-worn lives of New York's working- 
women. The cry echoes by night and hy day through its 
tenements : 

Oh, God 1 that bread should be bo dear, 
And flesli aad blood so cheap ! 

Six months have not passed since at a great public meet- 
ing in this city, the Working Women's Society reported : 
" It is a known fact that men's wages cannot fall below 
a limit upon which they can exist, bnt woman's wages 
have no limit, since the paths of shame are always open to 
her. It is simply impossible for any woman to live with- 
out assistance on the low salary a saleswoman earns, with- 
o«t depriving herself of real necessities. . . It is inev- 
itable that they mast in many instances resort to evil." 
It was only a few brief weeks before that verdict was ut- 
tered, that the community was shocked by the story of a 
gentle and refined woman who, left in direst poverty to 
earn her own living alone among strangers, threw herself 
from her attic window, preferring death to disbonor. " I 
would have done any honest work, even to scrubbing," 

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slie wrote, drenclied and starving, after a vain eearcli for 
work in a driving storm. She liad tramped tlie streets 
for weeks on her weary errand, and the only living wagea 
that were offered her were the wagea of sin. The ink 
was not dry upon her letter before a woman in an East I 
Side tenement wrote down her reaaon for self-murder : 
" Weakness, sleeplessness, and yet obliged to work. Mj 
strength fails me. Sing at my coffin: 'Where does the 
soul find a liome and rest ? ' " Her story may be found as 
one of two typical " cases of despair " in one little cliur(;h 
community, in the Oity Mission Society's Monthly for 
last February. It is a atory tliat has many parallels in 
the experience of every missionarj', every police reporter 
and every family doctor whose practice ia among the 

It is estimated that at least one hundred and fifty 
thousand women and girls earn their own living in New 
York ; but there is reason to believe that tliis estimate 
falls far short of the truth when sufficient account is taken 
of the large number who are nol; wholly dependent upon 
their own labor, while contributing by it to the fainily'a 
earnings. These alone constitute a large class of the wo- 
men wage-earners, and it is characteristic of the situation 
that the very fact that some need not starve on their 
■wages condemns the rest to that fate. The pay they are 
willing to accept all have to take. What the " everlast- 
ing law of supply and demand," that serves as such a con- 
venient gag for public indignation, has to do with it, one 
learns from observation all along the road of inquiry into 
these real woman's wrongs. To take the case of the sales- 
women for illustration : The investigation of the Work- 
ing Women's Society disclosed the fact that wages averag- 
ing from $3 to $4. 50 a week were reduced by excessive fines, 

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"the employers placing a value upon time lost that is not 
given to services rendered." A little girl, who received 
two dollars a week, made cash-sales amounting to $167 in 
a single day, while tiie receipts of a fifteen-dollar male 
clerk in the same department footed up only $125 ; yet 
for some trivial mistake the girl was fined sixty cents out 
of her two dollars. The practice prevailed in some stores 
of dividing the fines between the superintendent and the 
time-keeper at the end of the year. In one instance they 
amounted to $3,000, and " the superintendent was heard to 
charge the time-keeper with not being strict enough in 
his duties." One of the causes for fine in a certain large 
store was sitting down. The law requiring seats for sales- 
women, generally ignored, was obeyed faithfully in this 
establishment. The seats were there, but the girls were 
fined when found using them. 

Cash-girls receiving $1.75 a week for work that at cer- 
tain seasons lengthened their day to sixteen hours were 
sometimes required to pay for their aprons. A common 
cause for discharge from stores in which, on account of 
the oppressive heat and lack of ventilation, " girls fainted 
day after day and came out looking like corpses," was too 
long service. No other fault was found with the dis- 
charged saleswomen than that they had been long enough 
in the employ of the firm to justly expect an increase of 
salary. The reason was even given with brutal frank- 
ness, in some instances. 

These facts give a slight idea of the hardships and the 
poor pay of a business that notoriously absorbs child-labor. 
The girls are sent to the store before they have fairly en- 
tered their teens, because the money they can earn there 
is needed for the support of the family. If the boj-s will 
not work, if the street tempts thera from home, among 

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the girls at least there must be no drones. To keep their 
places they are told to lie about their age and to say that 
they are over fonrteen. The precaution is usually super- 
fluous. Tiie Women's Investigating Coiniuittee found tlie 
majority of the childi'en employed in the stores to be un- 
der age, but heard only in a single instance of the ti'uant 
officers calling. In that case they came once a year and 
sent the youngest children home ; but in a month's time 
they were all back in their places, and were not again dis- 
turbed. When it comes to the factories, where hard bod- 
ily labor IS added to long hours, stifling rooms, and starva- 
tion wages, matters are even worse. The Legislature lias 
passed -laws to prevent tbe employment of children, as it 
has forbidden saloon-keepers to sell tliem beer, and it has 
provided means of enforcing its mandate, so efficient, that 
tlie vei-y number of factor'ies in New York is guessed at 
as in the neighborhood of twelve thousand; ITp till this 
summer, a single inspector was charged with the duty of 
keeping th» run of them all, and of seeing to it that the 
law was respected by tlie owners. 

Sixty ceTTts is put as the average day's earnings of the 
150,000, but into this computation enters the stylish 
"cashier's " two dollars a day, as well as the thirty cents 
of the poor little girl who pulls threads in an East Side 
factory, and, if any tiling, the average is probably too high. 
Such as it is, however, it represents board, rent, clothing, 
and " pleasure " to this army of workers. Here is the 
case of a woman employed in the manufacturing depart- 
ment of a Broadway house. It stands for a hundi-ed like 
her own. She averages three dollars a week. Pays $1.50 
for her room ; for breakfast she has a cup of coffee ; lunch 
she cannot afford. One meal a day is her allowance. 
This woman is young, she is pretty. She has " the world 




before her." Is it anything less than a miracle i£ she is 
guilty of nothing worse than the "early and improvident 
marriage," against which moralists exclaim as one of the 
proliiie canses of the distress of the poor? Almost any 

door might seoiu to offer welcome escape from such slav- 
ery as this, "I feel so mnch healthier since I got three 
square meals a day," said a lodger in one of the Girls' 
Homes. Two young sewing-girls came in seeking domes- 
tie service, so tliat they might get enough to eat. They 

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had been only half-fed for some time, and starvation had 
driven them to the one door at which the pride of the 
Ainerican-born girl wiii not permit her to knock," th on gli 
poverty be the price of her independence. 

The tenement and the competition of public institu- 
tions and farmers' wives and daughters, have done the 
tyrant shirt to death, but thej have not bettered the lot 
of the needle-women. The sweater of the East Side has 
appropriated the flannel shirt. He turns them ont to-day 
at forty-five cents a dozen, paying his Jewisli workers 
from twenty to thirty-five cents. One of these testified 
before the State Board of Arbitration, during the shirt- 
makers' strike, that she worked eleven hours in tlie shop 
and four at home, and had never in the best of times 
made over six dollars a week. Anotlier stated that she 
worked from 4 o'clock in tlie morning to 11 at night. Tiiese 
girls had to find their own thread and pay for their own 
machines out of their wages. The white shirt has gone to 
the public and private institntions that shelter laj-ge nnm- 
bera of young girls, and to the country. There are not 
half as many shirtmakei'S in 'Sew York to-day as only a 
few years ago, and some of the largest firms have closed 
their city shops. The same is trne of the manufacturers 
of underwear, Oiie large Broadway firm has nearly all 
its work done by fanners' girls in Maine, who tliink them- 
selves well off if they can earn two or thi-ee dollars a week 
to pay for a Sunday silk, or the wedding outfit, little 
dreaming of the part they are playing in stai-ving their city 
sisters. Literally, they sew " with double thread, a shrond 
as well as a shirt." Their pin-money sets the rate of 
wages for thousands of poor sewing-gh-ls in New York, 
The average earnings of the worker on underwear to-day 
do not exceed the three dollars which her competitor 



among tlieEastern hills is willing to accept as the price of 
lier play. The shirtmaker's pay is better only becanse tlie 
very finest custom work is all there is left for lier to do. 

Calico wrappers at a dollar and a half a dozen — the 
very expert sewere able to make from eight to ten, the 
common run five or six — neckties at from 25 to 75 cents 
a dozen, with a dozen as a good day's work, are specimens 
of women's wages. And yet people persist in wondering 
at the poor qnality of work done in the tenements! Ital- 
ian cheap labor has come of late also to possess this poor 
field, with the sweater in its train. There is scarce a 
branch of woman's work ontside of the liome in which 
wages, long since at low-water mark, have not fallen to 
the point of actual starvation. A case was brougiit to my 
notice I'ecently by a woTiian doctor, whose heart as well as 
her life-work is with !he poor, of a widow with two little 
ciiildren she found at woi'k in an East Side attic, making 
paper-bags. Her father, slie told the doctor, had made 
good wages at it ; but slie received only five cents for six 
Inmdred of the little three-cornered bags, and her fingers 
had to be vtjry swift and handle the paste-brnsh very deft- 
ly to bring her earnings up to twenty-five and thirty 
cents a day. S!ie paid four dollars a month for her room. 
The rest went to buy food for herself and the children. 
The physician's purse, rather than lier skill, had healing 
for their complaint. 

I have aimed to set down a few dry facts merely. They 
carry their own comment. Back of the shop with its 
weary, gnn ding toil — the home in the tenement, of which 
it was said in a report of the State Labor Bureau : " De- 
cency and womanly reserve cannt^ be maintained there— 
what wonder so many fall away from virtue ? " Of the 
outlook, what ? Last Christmas Eve my business took me 

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to an obscure street among the West Side tenements. An 
old woman had just fallen on the doorstep, stricken with 
paralysis. The doctor said she would never again move 
her right hand or foot. The whole side was dead. By 
her bedside, in tlieir cheerless room, sat the patient's aged 
sister, a hopeless cripple, in dumb despair. Forty years 
ago the sisters had come, five in number then, with their 
mother, from the INorth of Ireland to make their home 
and earn a living among strangere. They were lace em- 
broiderers and found work easily at good wages. All the 
rest had died as the years went by. The two remained 
and, firmly resolved to lead an honest life, worked on 
though wages fell and fell as age and toil stiffened their 
once nimble fingers and dimmed their sight. Then one of 
them dropped out, lier hands palsied and her courage gone. 
Still tlie other toiled on, resting neither by night nor by 
day, that the sister might not want. Kow that slie too 
had been stricken, as she was going to the store for the 
work that was to keep them through the holidays, the 
battle was over at last. There was before them starvation, 
or the poor-house. And the proud spirits of the sisters, 
helpless now, quailed at the outlook. 

These were old, with life behind them. For them 
nothing was left but to sit in the shadow and wait. But 
of the thousands, who are travelling tiie road they trod 
to the end, with the hot blood of youth in their veins, 
with the love of life and of the beautiful world to wliich 
not even sixty cents a day can shut their eyes— who is to 
blame if their feet find the paths of shame that are " al- 
ways open to them ? " The very paths that have effaced 
the saving " limit," and to which it is declared to be " in- 
evitable that they must in many instances resort." Let 
the moralist answer. Let the wise economist apply his 

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rule of supply and demand, and let the answer be heard in 
this city of a thousand charities where justice goes beg- 

To the everlasting credit of New York's working-girl 
let it be said that, rough tiiough her road be, all but hope- 
less her battle with life, only in the rarest instances does 
she. go astray. As a class she is brave, virtuous, and true. 
New York's aruiy of profligate women is not, as in some 
foreign cities, recruited from lier ranks. Slie is as plucky 
as she is proud. That " American gii'ls never whimper" 
became a proverb long ago, and she accepts her lot un- 
complainingly, doing the best she can and holding, her 
cherished independence clieap at the cost of a meal, or of 
half her daily ration, if need be. The home in the tene- 
ment and the traditions of her childhood have neither 
trained her to luxury nor predisposed her in favor of do- 
mestic labor in preference to the shop. So, to the world 
she presents a cheerful, uncomplaining fi'ont that some- 
times deceives it. Her courage will not be without its 
reward. Slowly, as the conviction is thrust upon society 
that woman's work must enter more and more into its 
planning, a better day is dawning. The organization of 
working girls' clubs, unions, and societies with a commu- 
nity of interests, despite the obstacles to such a movement, 
bears testimony to it, as to the devotion of the unselfish 
women who have made their poorer sister's cause their 
own, and will yet wring from an unfair world the justice 
too long denied her. 

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THE reader who has followed with me the fate of the 
Other Half thus far, may not experience much of a 
shock at being told that in eight years 135,595 families in 
New York were registered as asking or receiving charity. 
Perhaps, however, the intelligence will rouse him that for 
five years past one person in every ten who died in this 
city was buried in the Potter's Field. These facts tell a 
terrible story. The first means that in a population of a 
million and a half, very nearly, if not quite, half a million 
persons were driven, or chose, to beg for food, or to ac- 
cept it in charity at some period of the eight years, if not 
during the whole of it. There is no mistake about these 
figures. They are drawn from the records of the Charity 
Organization Society, and represent the time during which 
it has been in existence. It is not even pretended that 
the record is complete. To be well within the limits, the 
Society's statisticians allow only three and a half to the 
family, instead of the four and a half that are accepted as 
the standard of calculations which deal with New York's 
population as a whole. They estimate upon the basis of 
their every-day experience that, allowing for those who 
have died, moved away, or become for the time being at 
least self-supporting, eighty-five per cent, of the registry 
are still within, or lingering upon, the borders of depen- 
dence. Precisely how the case stands with this great 



liorde of the indigent is sliowii by a claesiflcation of 5,169 
cases that were investigated by the Society in one year. 
This was the way it turned out : 327 worthy of continu- 
ous relief, or 6.4 percent.; ],269 worthy of temporary 
relief, or 24.4 per cent. ; 3,698 in need of work, rather 
than relief, or 53.3 per cent. ; 875 unworthy of relief, or 
17 per cent. 

That is, nearly six and a half per cent, of all were ut- 
terly helpless — orphans, cripples, or the very aged ; nearly 
one-fourth needed juet a lift to start them on the road to 
independence, or to permanent pauperism, according to 
the wisdom with which the lever was applied. More than 
half were destitute because they had no work and were 
B to find any, and one-sixth were frauds, professional 
rs, training their children to follow in their foot- 
steps — a veritable "tribe of Ishmael," tightening its grip 
on society as the years pass, until society shall summon up 
pluck to say with Paul, " if any man will not work neither 
shall he eat," and stick to it. It is worthy of note that al- 
most precisely the same results followed a similar investi- 
gation in Boston, There were a few more helpless eases 
of the sort true charity accounts it a gain to care for, but 
the proportion of a given lot that was crippled for want 
of work, or unworthy, was exactly the same as in this 
city. The bankrupt in hope, in courage, in purse, and in 
purpose, are not peculiar to Kew York. They are found 
the world over, but we have our full share. If further 
proof were wanted, it is found in the prevalence of pauper 
burials. The Potter's Field stands ever for utter, hope- 
less surrender. The last the poor will let go, however 
miserable their lot in life, is the hope of a decent burial. 
But for the five years ending with 1888 the average of 
burials in the Potter's Field has been 10.03 per cent, of 

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all. In 1889 it was 9.64. In tliat,\ear tlie pioportion 
to the total mortality of those w ho died m hobpitals, in- 
stitutions, and in the Ahnshoiiae was as 1 m 5 

The 135,595 families inhabited no fewei than 31,000 
different tenements. I say tenements advisedly, though 

the society calls them buildings, because at least ninety- 
nine per cent, were found in the big barracks, the rest in 
shanties scattered here and there, and now and then a 
fraud or an exceptional ease of distress in a dwelling- 
house of better class. Here, nndoubtedly, allowance must 
be made for the constant moving about of those who live 



on charity, which enables one active beggar to blacklist 
a dozen houses in the year. Still the great mass of the 
tenements are shown to be harboring almB-seekers, They 
might almost as safely harbor tlie small -pox. That 
scourge is not more contagious than tlie ahns-seeker's com- 
plaint. There are houses that have been corrupted 
through and through by this pestilence, until their Very 
atmosphere breathes beggary. More than a hundred and 
twenty pauper families have been reported from time to 
time ae living in one such tenement. 

The tnith is that pauperism grows in the tenements as 
naturally as weeds in a garden lot. A moral distemper, 
like cnme, it finds there its most fertile soil. All the 
surroundings of tenement-house life favor its growth, and 
where once it has taken root it is harder to dislodge than 
the most virnlent of physical diseases. The thief ie in- 
finitely easier to deal with than the pauper, because the 
very fact of his being a thief presupposes some bottom to 
the man. Granted that it is bad, there is still some- 
thing, a possible handle by which to catch liim. To the 
panper there is none. He is as hopeless as his own 
poverty. I speak of thejtavpei; not of the honestly poor. 
There is a shai-p line between the two ; but athwart it 
stands the tenement, all the time bhirring and blotting it 
out. "It all comes down to character in the end," was 
the verdict of a philanthropist whose life has been spent 
wrestling with this weary problem. And so it comes 
down to the tenement, the destroyer o£ individuality and 
character everywhere. "In nine years," said a wise and 
charitable physician, sadly, to me, " I liave known of but a 
single case of permanent improvement in a poor tenement 
family." - 1 have known of some, whose experience, ex- 
tending ovei' an even longer stretch, was little better. 

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The beggar foliowa the "tough's" rule of life that the 
world owes him a living, but hia scheme of collecting it 
stops short of violence. He has not the pluck to rob even 
a drunken man. His highest flights take in at most an 
unguarded clothee-line, or a little child sent to buy bread 
or beer with the pennies he clutches tightly as he skips 
along. Even then he prefers to attain his end by strata- 
gem rather than by force, though occasionally, when the 
coast is clear, he rises to the height of the bnily. The 
ways he finds of " eoJlecting " under the cloak of unde- 
served poverty are numberless, and often reflect credit on 
the man's ingenuity, if not on the man himself. I remem- 
ber the shock with which my first experience with hia 
kind — her kind, rather, in this case: the beggar was a 
woman — came home to me. On my way to and from the 
ofiice I had been giving charity regularly, as I fondly be- 
lieved, to an old woman who sat in Chatham Square with 
a baby done up in a bundle of rags, moaning piteously in 
sunshine and rain, " Please, help the poor," It was the 
baby I pitied and thought I was doing my little to help, 
until one night I was just in time to rescue it from rolling 
out of her lap, and found the bundle I had been wasting 
my pennies upon just rags and nothing more, and the old 
hag dead drunk. Since then I have encountered bogus 
babies, borrowed babies, and drugged babies in the streets, 
and fought shy of them all. Most of them, I am glad to 
say, have been banished from the street since; but they 
are still occasionally to be found. It was only last winter 
that the officers of the Society for the Prevention of 
Cruelty to Children arrested an Italian woman who was 
begging along Madison Avenue with a poor little wreck of 
a girl, wliose rags and pinched face were calculated to tug 
hard at the purse-strings of a miser. Over five dollars in 

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nickles and pennies were taken from the woman's pockets, 
and when lier story of poverty and hunger was investi- 
gated at the family's home in a Baxter Street tenement, 
baiik-boolis turned up tliat showed the Masonis to be reg- 
ular pauper capitalists, able to draw their check for three 
thousand dollars, had they been so disposed. The woman 
was fined $350, a worse punishment undonbtedly than to 
have sent her to prison for the rest of her natural life. 
Her class lias, unhappily, representatives in New York 
that liave not yet been bi'ought to grief. 

Nothing short of making street begging a crime has 
availed to clear our city of this pest to an appreciable ex- 
tent. By how niudi of an effort tiiis result has been 
accomplished may he gleaned from the fact that the Char- 
ity Organization Society alone, in five years, caused the 
taking up of 2,59i street beggars, and the arrest and con- 
viction of l,i1i persistent offenders. Last year it dealt 
with 612 perambulating mendicants. Tlie police report 
only 19 arrests for begging during the year 1889, but the 
real facts of the case are found under the heading " va- 
grancy." In all, 2,633 persons were charged with this 
offence, 947 of tliem women. A goodly proportion of 
these latter came from the low groggeries of the Tenth 
Ward, where a peculiar variety of the female tramp-beggar 
IS at home, the "scrub." The scrub is one degree per- 
haps above the average pauper in this, that she is willing 
to work at least one day in the week, generally the Jew- 
ish Sabbath. The orthodox Jew can do no work of any 
sort from Friday evening till sunset on Saturday, and this 
interim the scrub fills out in Ludlow Street. The pittance 
she receives for this vicarious sacrifice of herself upon the 
altar of the ancient faith buys her rum for at least two 
days of the week at one of the neighborhood " morgues." 

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She lives througli tlie other four by begging. There are 
disfcilleriee in Jewtown, or just across its borders, tliat de- 
pend ahnoet wholly on Iter custom. Recently, when one 
in Hester Street was raided because the neighbors had 
complained of the boisterons hilarity of the hags over 
their beer, thirty two aged " scrubs " were marched off to 
the statioQ-honse. 

It is curious to find preconceived notions quite upset in 
a review of the nationalities that go to make up this squad 
of street beggars. The Irish head the list with fifteen per 
cent., and the native American is only a little way behind 
with twelve per cent., wliile the Italian, who in his own 
country turns beggary into a fine art, lias less ttian two per 
cent. Eight per cent, were Germans. Tlie relative prev- 
alence of the races in our population does not account for 
this showing. Various causes operate, no doubt, to pro- 
duce it. Chief among them is, I thhik, the tenement 
itself. It has no power to corrupt the Italian, who comes 
here in almost every instance to work — no beggar would 
ever emigrate from anywhere unless forced to do so. He 
is distinctly on its lowest level from the start. Witli the 
Irishman the case is difEerent. The tenement, especially 
its lowest type, appears to possess a pecuiiar affinity for 
the worse nature of the Celt, to whose best and strongest 
instincts it does violence, and soonest and most thoroughly 
corrupts him. The " native " twelve per cent, represent 
the result of this process, the hereditary beggar of the 
second or third generation in the slums. 

The blind beggar alone is winked at in New Tork's 
streets, because the authorities do not know what else to 
do with .him. Tliere is no provision for him anywhere 
after he is old enough to strike ont for himself. The an- 
nual pittance of thirty or forty dollars whicii he receives 



from tlie city serves to keep hie landlord in good humor ; 
for the rest his misfortune and his thin disguise of selling 
penciSs on the street comers must provide. Unti! the 
citj affords him some systeniatic way of earning his living 
by work (as Philadelphia has done, for instance) to banish 
him from the street would be tantamount to sentencing him 
to death by starvation. So he possesses it in peace, that 
is, if he is blind in good earnest, and begs without "en- 
cnmbranee," Professional mendicancy does not hesitate 
to make use of the greatest of human afflictions as a pre- 
tence for enlisting the sympathy upon which it thrives. 
Many New Yorkers will remember the Frencli school- 
master who was " blinded by a shell at tiie siege of Paris," 
but miraculonsly recovered his sight when arrested and 
deprived of his cliildren by the officers of Mi'. Gerry's 
society. When last heard of he kept a " museum " in 
Hartford, and acted the overseer with financial success. 
His sign with its pitiful tale, that was a familiar sight in 
our streets for years and earned for him the capital upon 
which he started his business, might have found a place 
among the curiosities exhibited there, had it not been 
kept in a different sort of museum here as a memento of 
liis rascality. There was another of his tribe, a woman, 
who begged for years witli a deformed child Iti her arms, 
which she was found to have hired at an ahnshonse in Ge- 
noa for fifteen francs a month. It was a good investment, 
for she proved to be possessed of a comfortable fortune. 
Some time before that, the Society for the Pi-evention of 
Cruelty to Children, that found her out, had broken up 
the dreadful padrone system, a real slave trade in Italian 
children, wlio were bought of poor parents across the sea 
and made to beg tiieir way on foot through France to the 
port whence they were shipped to this city, to be beaten 

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and starved liere hy their cruel masters and sent out to 
beg, often after inercile^ tnutilation to make them " take " 
better with a pitting public. 

But, after all, the tenement ofEers a better cliance of 
fraud on impulsive but thoughtleBs charity, than all the 
wretchedness of the street, and with fewer risks. To the 
tender-hearted and unwary it is, in itself, the strongest plea 
for help. When such a cry goes up as was heard recent- 
ly from a Mott Street den, where the family of a "sick" 
Iiuaband, a despairing mother, and half a dozen children 
in rags and dirt were destitute of tlie " first necessities of 
life," it is not to be wondered at that a stream of gold comes 
pouring in to relieve. It happens too often, as in that 
case, that a little critical inyuiry or reference to the " black 
list" of the Charity Organization Society, justly dreaded 
only by the frauds, discovers the *' sickness" to stand for 
laziness, and the destitution to be the family's stock in 
trade ; and the community receives a shock that for once 
is downright wholesome, if it imposes a check on an nn- 
diHCriminating ciiarity that is worse than none at all. 

The case referred to furnished an apt ilhistration of 
how thoroughly corrupting pauperism is in such a setting. 
The tenement woke np early to the go!d mine that was 
being worked under its roof, and before the day was three 
liours old the stream of callers who i-esponded to tlie news- 
paper appeal found the alley blocked by a couple of 
" toughs," who exacted toll of a silver quarter from each* 
tearful sympathizer with the misery in the attic. 

A volume might be written about the tricks of the pro- 
fessional beggar, and the uses to which he turns the tene- 
ment in his trade. The Boston " widow " whose Imsband 
turned up alive and well after she had buwed him seven- 
teen times with tears and lamentation, and made the pub- 

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lie pay for the weekly funerals, is not without r 
tivea in Kew York, The '■ gentleman tramp " is a famil- 
iar type from our streets, and the " once i-espectable 
Methodist" who patronized all the revivals in town with 
his profitable story of repeiitiiiice, onlj- to fall from grace 
into the saloon door nearest the ehurch after the service 

was over, merely transferred the scene of his operations 
froTii the tenement to the ehiireh as the proper setting for 
his specialty. There ia eiiosigh of real suffering in the 
liomes of the poor to make one wish tliat there were some 
effective way of enforcing Paul's plan of starving the drones 
into the paths of self-support : no work, nothing to eat. 
Tlie message came from one of the Health Depart- 

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meat's summer doctors, last July, to The Kiiig'a Daugh- 
ters' Tenement-house Committee, that a family with a 
sick child was absolutely famishing in an uptown tene- 
ment. The address was not given, Tlie doctor had 
forgotten to write it down, and before he could be found 
and a visitor sent to the house the baby was dead, and 
tiie mother had gone mad. The imrse found the father, 
who was an honest laborer long out of work, pack- 
ing the little corpse in an orange-box partly iilled with 
straw, that he miglit take it to the Morgue for pauper 
burial. There was absolutely not a crust to eat in the 
house, and the otiier children were crying for food. 
The great immediate need in that case, as in more than 
half of all according to tlie I'ecord, was work and liv- 
ing wages. Alma do not meet the emergency at all. 
They frequently aggravate it, degrading and pauperiz- 
ing where trne help should aim at raising the sufferer 
to self-reapeet and self-dependence. The experience of 
the Charity Organization Society in raising, in eight 
years, 4,500 families out of the rut of pauperism into 
proud, if modest, independence, without alms, but by 
a system of " friendly visitation," and the work of the 
Society- for Improving the Condition of the Poor and 
kindred organizations along the same line, shows what 
can be done by well-directed effort. It is estimated that 
New York spends in public and private chai'ity evei'y 
year a round $8,000,000. A small part of this snm in- 
telligently invested in a great labor bureau, that woidd 
bring the seeker of work and the one with woi'k to give 
together under auspices offering some degree of mntnal 
security, would certainly repay the amount of the invest- 
ment in the saving of much capital now worse than 
wasted, and would be prolific of the best results. The 



ultimate and greatest need, however, tlie real remedy, is 
to remove the cause — the tenemeut that was built for " a 
class of whom nothing was expected,^' and which has come 
fully up to the expectation. Tenement-house reform 
holds the key to the problem of pauperism in the city. 
We can never get rid of either the tenement or the pau- 
per. The two will always exist together in New York. 
But by reforming the one, we can do more toward exter- 
minating the other than can be done by all other means 
together that have yet been invented, or ever will he. 

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PAUPERDOM is to blame for the unjust yoking of 
poverty with punishment, " charities " with " correc- 
tion," in our tnunicipal ministeniig to the needs of the 
Nether Half. Tlie shadow of the workhouse points like 
a scornful finger toward its neighbor, the almshouse, when 
the sun sets behind the teeming city across tlie East Eiver, 
as if, conld its stones speak, it would say before night 
drops its black curtain between them : " You and I are 
brothers. I am not more bankrupt in moral purpose than 
you. A common parent begat us. Twin breasts, the ten- 
ement and the saloon, nourished us. Vice and unthrift 
go hand in hand. Pauper, behold thy brother ! " And 
the almshouse owns the bitter relationship in silence. 

Over on the islands that lie stnmg along the river and 
far np the Sound the Nether Half hides its deformity, ex- 
cept on show-days, when distinguished visitors have to be 
entertained and the soi-e is uncovered by the authorities 
with due municipal pride in the exhibit. I shall spare 
the reader the sight. The aim of these pages has been to 
lay bare its source. But a brief glance at our proscribed 
population is needed to give background and tone to the 
picture. The review begins with the Charity Hospital 
with its thousand helplera human wrecks ; takes in the 
penitentiary, where the " tough " from Battle Row and 



Poverty Gap is made to earn behind stone wails the living 
the world owes him ; a thooghtJess, jolly convict-band with 
opportunity at last " to think " behind the iron bars, but 
little desire to improve it ; governed like unrnJy boys, 
which in fact most of them are. Three of them were 
taken from the dinner-table while I was there one day, 
for sticking pins into each other, and were set with their 
faces to the wall in sightof six hundred of their comrades 
for punishment. Pleading incessantly for tobacco, when 
the keeper's back is turned, as the next best thing to the 
whiskey they cannot get, tiiough they can plainly make 
out t!ie saloon-signs across the stream where they robbed 
or " slugged " their way to piison. Every once in a while 
the longing gets the best of some pi'isoner from the peni- 
tentiary or the workhouse, and he risks his life in the swift 
currents to reach the goal that tantalizes him with the 
promise of "just one more drunk." The chances' are at 
least even of his being run down by some passing steamer 
and drowned, even if he is not overtaken by the ai-med 
gnards who patrol the shore in boats, or Iiis strength does 
not give out. 

This workhouse comes next, with the broken-down 
hordes from the dives, the lodging-houses, and the tramps' 
nests, the " hell-box " * rather than the repair-shop of the 
city. In 1889 the registry at the workhouse footed up 
22,477, of whom some had been there as many aa twenty 
times before. It is the popular summer resort of the 
slums, but business is brisk at this stand the year round. 
Not a few of its patrons drift back periodically without 
the formality of a commitment, to take tlieir chances on 
the island when there is no escape from the alternative of 

• In printing-ofBces the broken, worn-out, and useless type is thrown 
into the " hell-bos," fo be recMt at the foundry. 



work in the city. Work, but not too much work, is the 
motto of the eBtablishment. Tlie " workhouse step " is 
an institution that must be observed on the island, in order 
to draw any comparison between it and the snail's pace 
that shall do justice to the snail. Nature and man's art 
have made these islands beautiful ; but weeds grow hix- 
uriantly in their gardens, and spiders spin their cobwebs 
unmolested in the borders of sweet-smelling box. The 
work which two score of hired men could do well is too 
much for these thousands. 

Rows of old women, some smoking stumpy, black claj- 
pipes, others knitting or idling, all grumbling, sit or stand 
under the trees that hedge in the almshouse, or limp 
about in the sunshine, leaning on crutches or bean-pole 
staffs. They are a " growler-gang" o£ another sort than 
may be seen in session on the rocks of the opposite shore 
at that very moment. They grumble and growl from 
sunrise to sunset, at the weather, the breakfast, the din- 
ner, the supper ; at pork and beans as at corned beef and 
cabbage ; at their Thanksgiving dinner as at the half ra- 
tions of the sick ward ; at the past that had no joy, at the 
present whose comfort they deny, and at the future with- 
out promise. The crusty old men in the next building 
are not a circumstance to them. The warden, who was in 
charge of the almshouse for many years, had become bo 
snappish and profane by constant association with a thou- 
sand cross old women that I approached him with some 
misgivings, to request his permission to " take " a group 
of a hundred or so who were within shot of my camera. 
lie misundei-stood me. 

" Take tliem ? " he yelled. " Take the thousand of 
them and be welcome. They will never be still, by - — -, 
till they are sent up on Hart's Island in a box, and I'll be 

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blamed if I don't think tiiey will gi-owl then at t]je style 
of the funeral." 

And he threw liis arms around me in an outburst of 
enthusiasm over the wondrous good iuck that liad sent a 
f iiend indeed to his door. I felt it to be a painful dutj 
to undeceive him. When I told him tfiat I simply wanted 
the old women's picture, he turned away in speechless 
disgust, and to his dyiug day, I have no doubt, remem- 
bered my call as the day of the champion fool's visit to 
the island. 

When it is known that many of these old people have 
been sent to the almshouse to die by their heartless chil- 
dren, for whom they had worked faithfully as long as 
they were able, their growling and discontent is not hard 
to understand. Bitter poverty threw them all "on the 
county," often on the wrong county at that. Very many 
of them are old-country poor, sent, there is reason to be- 
lieve, to America by the authorities to get rid of the 
obligation to support them. "The almshouse," wrote a 
good missionary, " affords a sad illustration of St. Paul's 
description of the ' last days.' The class from which comes 
our poorhouse population is to a large extent ' without natu- 
ral affection.' " I was reminded by his words of what my 
friend, the doctor, had said to me a little while before : 
•' Many a mother has told me at her child's death-bed, ' I 
cannot affoi-d to lose it. It costs too much to bury it.' 
And when the little one did die there was no time for the 
mother's grief. The question crowded on at once, ' where 
shall the money come from?' Natural feelings and af- 
fections are smothered in the tenements." The doctor's 
experience furnished a sadly appropriate text for the 
priest's sermon. 

Pitiful as these are, sights and sounds infinitely more 

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Baddening await us beyond the gate tliat shuts tins world 
of woe off from one whence the light of hope and reason 
have gone out togethei'. The shuffling of inaiij feet on 
the macadamized roads heralds the approacli of a host of 
women, hundreds upon himdreds — bej'ond the turn in the 
road they still keep coming, marching with the faltering 
step, the unseeing look and the incessant, senseless chatter 
that betrays the darkened mind. The lunatic women of 
the Biackwell's Island Asylnra are taking their afternoon 
walk. Beyond, on the wide lawn, moves another still 
stranger processionj a file of women in the asylum dress 
of dull gray, hitched to a queer little wagon that, with its 
gaudy adornments, suggests a cross between a baby-car- 
riage and a circus- chariot. One crazy woman is strapped 
in the seat ; forty tug at the rope to which they are se- 
curely bound. This is the " chain-gang," so called once 
in scoffing ignorance of the humane purpose the contriv- 
ance serves. These are the patients afflicted with suicidal 
mania, who cannot be trusted at large for a moment with 
the river in sight, yet must have their daily walk as a 
necessary part of their treatment. So this wagon was in- 
vented by a clever doctor to afford tliem at once exercise 
and amusement. A merry-go-round in the grounds sug- 
gests a variation of this scheme. Ghastly suggestion of 
mirth, with that stricken host advancing on its aimless 
journey! As we stop to see it pass, the plaintive strains 
of a familiar song float through a ban-ed window in the 
gi-ay stone building. The voice is sweet, but inexpressibly 

sad: " Oh, how my heart grows weary, far from " 

The song breaks off suddenly in a low, troubled laugh. 

She has forgotten, forgotten . A woman in the I'anks, 

whose head has been turned toward the window, throws 
up her hands with a scream. The rest stir uneasily. 

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Tiie nurse is by lier side in an instant with words lialf 
soothing, half stern. A messenger comes in iiaste from 
the asjium to ask ns not to stop. Strangers may not 
linger where the patients pass. Ifc is apt to excite them. 
As we go in with him tlie human file is passing yet, qniet 
restored. The troubled voice of the unseen singer etill 
gropes vainly among the lost memories of the past for the 
missing key : " Oli 1 how my heart grows weary, far 

from " 

" Who is she, doctor ? " 

" Hopeless case. She will never see home again." 
An average of seventeen hundred women this asylum 
harbors; the asylum for men up on Ward's Island even 
more. Altogether 1,419 patients were admitted to the 
city asylums for the insane in 1889, and at the end of 
the year 4,913 remained in them. Tiiere is a constant 
ominous increase in tliis class of helpless unfortunates that 
are thrown on the city's charity. Quite two hundred are 
added year by year, and the asylums were long since eo 
overcrowded that a great " farm " had to be established 
on Long Island to receive the surplus. The strain of our 
hurried, over-worked life has something to do with this. 
Poverty has more. For these are all of the poor. It is the 
harvest of sixty and a liundred fold the "fearful rolling 
up and rolling down from generat o to ge erat on, through 
all the ages, of the weakness, vice an 1 i o al darkness of 
the past." * Tiie curse of the isU d 1 au ts all that come 
once within its reach. '■ No man r womin," says Dr. 
Louis L, Seaman, who speaks fro u nanv >earb experience 
in a position that gave him full opportunity to observe the 

* Dr. Louis L. Seaman, late chief of staff of the Blackwell'a Island 
hospitals: " Social Waste of a Great Cit^'," read before the AmerioSQ 
Assooiatiou for the Advancement of Soieuca, 1888. 



facts, " who is ' sent up ' to these colonies ever returns to 
tlie city scot-free. There is a lien, visible or hidden, upon 
his or her present or future, which too often proves 
stronger than the best purposes and fairest opportunities 
of social rehabilitation. The under world holds in rig- 
orons bondage every unfortunate or miscreant who has 
once ' served time.' There is often tragic interest in 
the struggles of the ensnared wretches to break away from 
the meshes spun about them. But the maelstrom has no 
bowels of inerey ; and the would-be fugitives are flung 
back again and again into the devouring wiilrlpool of 
crime and poverty, until the end is reached on the dissect- 
ing-table, or in the Potter's Field. What can the moralist 
or scientist do by way of resuscitation ? Very little at 
best. The flotsam and jetsam are mere shreds and frag- 
ments of wasted lives. Such a ministry must begin at 
the sources— is necessarily prophylactic, nutritive, educa- 
tional. On these islands there are no flexible twigs, only 
gnarled, blasted, blighted trunks, insensible to moral or 
social influences." 

Sad words, but true. The commonest keeper soon 
learns to pick out almost at sight the " cases " that will 
leave the penitentiary, the workhouse, the almshouse, 
only to return again and again, each time more liopeless, 
to spend their wasted lives in the bondage of the island. 

The alcoholic cells in Bellevue Hospital are a way-sta- 
tion for a goodly share of them on their journeys back 
and forth across tiie East Eiver. Last year they held al- 
together 3,694 prisonere, considerably more thaii one- 
fourth of the whole number of 13,813 patients that went 
in through the hospital gates. The daily average of 
" cases " in this, the hospital of the poor, is over six hun- 
dred. The average daily census of all the prisons, hospi- 

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tals, workhouses, and asylums in the charge of the De- 
partment of Charities and Correction last year was about 
14,000, and about one employee was required for every ten 
of this army to keep its machinery running smoothly. 
The totai number admitted in 1S89 to all the jails and in- 
stitutions in the city and on tlie islands was 138,332. To 
the almshouse alone 38,600 were admitted ; 9,765 were 
there to start the new year with, and 553 were born with 
tlie dark sliadow of the poorhouse overhanging their 
lives, making a total of 48,'918. In the cave of all their 
wards the commisBioners expended $2,343,372. The ap- 
propriation for the police force in 1889 was $4,409,550,- 
94, and for the criminal courts and their machinery $403,- 
190. Tiins the first cost of maintaining our standing army 
of paupers, criminals, and sick poor, by direct taxation, was 
last year $7,156,112.94. 

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A MAN stood at the (fcraer of Fifth Avenue and 
Fourteenth Street the otlier day, looking gloomily 
at the carriages that rolled by, canyiiig the wealth and 
fashion of the avenues to and from the big stores down 
town. He was poor, and hungry, and ragged. This 
thought was in his mind : " They behind their well-fed 
teams have no thought for the morrow ; they know hun- 
ger only bj name, and ride down to spend in an liour's 
shopping what would keep me and my little ones from 
want a whole year." There rose up before him the pict- 
ure of those little ones crying for bread around the cold 
and cheerless hearth — then he sprang into the throng and 
slashed about him with a knife, blindly seeking to kill, to 

The man was arrested, of course, and locked up. To- 
day he is probably in a mad-house, foj-gotten. And the 
can-iages roll by to and from the big stores with their 
gay throng of shoppers. The world forgets easily, too 
easily, what it does not like to remember. 

Nevertheless the man and his knife had a mission. 
They spoke in their ignorant, impatient way the warning 
one of the most conservative, dispassionate of pahlio 
bodies had sounded only a little while before : " Our only 
fear is that reform may come in a burst of public indig- 

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nation destructive to property and to good morals." * 
They represented one solution of tlie problem of ignor- 
ant poverty versm ignorant wealth that has come down 
to us uiiBolved, the danger-cry of which we have lately 
heard in the shout that never should have been raised 
on American soil— the shout of " the masses against tlie 
classes " — the solution of violence. 

There is another solution, that of justice. The choice 
is between the two. Which shall it be ? 

" Well ! " say some well-meaning people ; " we don't see 
the need of putting it in tliat way. We have been down 
among the tenements, looked thein over. There are a 
good many people there ; they are not comfortable, per- 
haps. What would you have ? They are poor. And 
their houses are not such hovels as we have seen and read 
of in the slums of the Old World. They are decent in 
comparison. Why, some of them Iiave brown- stone 
fronts. Ton will own at least that they make a decent 

Yes ! that is true. The worst tenements in New York 
do not, as a rule, look bad. Neither Hell's Kitchen, nor 
Murderers' Eow beai-s its true character stamped on the 
front. They ai'e not quite old enough, perhaps. The 
same is true of their tenants. The New York tough may 
be ready to kill where his London brother would do little 
more than scow! ; yet, as a general tiling he is less re- 
pulsively brutal in looks. Here again the reason may be 
the same: the breed is not so old. A few generations 
more in the alums, and all that will be changed. To get 
at the pregnant facts of tenement-house life one must look 
beneath the surface. Many an apple has a fair skin and a 

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rotten core. There ia a much better argument for the 
tenementa in the assurance of the Registrar of Vital 
Statistics that the death-rate of these houses has of late 
been brought below the general death-rate of the city, and 
that it is lowest in the biggest houaea. This meana two 
, things : one, that the almost exclusive attention given to 
the tenementa by the sanitary authorities in twenty years 
haa borne Bome fruit, and tliat the newer tenements are 
better than the old — there is some hope in that ; the other, 
that the whole atrain of tenement-house dwellera haa been 
bred down to the conditions under which it exists, that 
the struggle with corruption haa begotten the power to 
I'eaist it. This is a familiar law of nature, necessary to 
its fii'st and strongest impulse of self-preservation. To a 
certain extent, we are all creatures of the conditions that 
surround us, physically and morally. But is the knowl- 
edge reassuring? In the light of what we have seen, does 
not the question arise : what sort of creature, then, this 
of the tenement ? I tried to draw his likeness from ob- 
servation in telling the story of the " tough." Haa it 
nothing to suggest the man with the knife ? 

I will go further. I am not willing even to admit it to 
be an unqualified advantage that our New York tenements 
have leas of the alum look than these of older cities. It 
helps to delay the recognition of their true character on 
the part of the well-meaning, but uninstrueted, who are 
always in the majority. 

The " dangerous classes" of New York long ago com- 
pelled recognition. They are dangerous less because of 
their own crimes than because of the criminal ignorance 
of tlioae who are not of their kind. The danger to society 
cornea not from the poverty of the tenements, but from 
the ill-spent wealth that reared them, that it might earn a 



usurious interest from a class from wliicii " iiotliing else 
was expected." That was the broad foundation laid 
down, and the edifice built upon it corresponds to the 
groundwork. That this is well understood on the " un- 
safe "side of the line that separates tlie rich from the 
poor, much better than by those who liave all the advan- 
tages of discriminating education, is good canse for dis- 
quietude. In it a keen foresight may again dimly discern 
the shadow of the man with the knife. 

Two years ago a great meeting was held at Chickering 
Hall — I have spoken of it before — a meeting that dis- 
cussed for days and nights the question liow to banish 
this spectre; how to lay hold with good influences of this 
enormous mass of more than a million people, who were 
drifting away faster and faster from the safe moorings 
of the old faith. Clergymen and laymen from all the 
Protestant denominations took part in the discussion ; nor 
was a good word forgotten for the brethren of the other 
great Christian fold who labor among tlie poor. Much 
was said that was good and true, and ways were found of 
i-eaching the spii'itual needs of the tenement population 
that promise success. But at no time throughout the con- 
ference was the real key-note of the situation so boldly 
struck as has been done by a few far-seeing business 
men, who had listened to the cry of that Christian builder : 
" How shall the love of God be understood by those who 
have been nurtured in sight only of the greed of man ? " 
Their practical programme of " Philantliropy and five 
per cent." has set examples in tenement building that 
show, though they are yet few and scattered, what may 
in time be accomplished even with such poor opportu- 
nities as New York offers to-day of undoing the old 
wrong. This is the gospel of justice, the solution that 

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must he Bought as the one altern^itive to the man with 
the knife. 

"Are you not looking too much to the material condi- 
tion of these people," said a good minister to me after a 
lecture in a Harlem chui-ch last winter, " and forgetting 
the inner man ? " I told liim, " No ! for you cannot 
expect to find an inner man to appeal to in tlie worst 
tenement-house surroundings. Yon mnst first pnt the 
man where he can respect himself. To reverse the argu- 
ment of the apple : you cannot expect to find a sound 
core in a rotten fruit." 

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TTN twenty years what has been done in New Tork to 
-■- solve the tenement-house problem ? 

The law has done what it could. That was not always 
a great deal, seldom more than barely sufficient for the 
moment. An aroused municipal conscience endowed tlie 
Health Department with almost autocratic powei-s in 
dealing with this subject, but tlie desire to educate rather 
tliaii force the community into a better way dictated their 
exercise with a slow conservatism that did not always 
seem wise to the impatient reformer. Kew York has its 
St, Antoine, and it has often sadly missed a Napoleon HI. 
to clean up and make light in the dark corners. The ob- 
stacles, too, have been many and great. Nevertheless the 
authorities have not been idle, though it is a grave ques- 
tion whether all the improvements made under the sani- 
tary regulations of i-ecent years deserve tiie name. Tene- 
ments quite as bad as the worst are too numerous yet; 
but one tremendous factor for evil in the lives of the 
poor has been taken by the throat, and something has 
unquestionably been done, where that was possible, to 
lift tliose lives out of the rut where they were equally 
beyond tlie reach of hope and of ambition. It is no 
longer lawful to construct barracks to cover the whole of 
a lot. Air and sunlight have a legal claim, and the day 
of rear tenements is past. Two years ago a hundred 

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thousand people burrowed in these inhuman dena; but 
some have been torn down since. Their number will. 
decrease steadily until they 
shall have become a bad tra- 
dition of a heedless past. 
The dark, nnventilated bed- 
room is going with them, and 

the open sewer. The day is at hand when the greatest 
of all evils that now curse life in the tenements— the 
dearth of water in the hot summer days — will also have 

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been remedied, and a long step taken toward the moral 

and physical redemption of tlieir tenants. 

Public eentimeiit has done something also, but very 
far from enough. As a rule, it has slumbered peacefully 
imtil some flagrant outrage on decency and the health of 
the community aroused it to noisy but ephemeral indigna- 
tion, or until a dreaded epidemic knocked at our door. 
It is this unsteadiness of purpose that has been to a large 
extent responsible for the apparent lagging of the author- 
ities in cases not involving immediate danger to the gen- 
eral health. The law needs a much stronger and readier 
backing of a thoroughly enlightened public sentiment to 
make it as effective as it might he made. It is to be re- 
membered that the health officers, in dealing with this 
subject of dangerous houses, are constantly trenching upon 
what each landlord considers his private rights, for which 
lie is ready and bound to fight to the last. Nothing short 
of the strongest pressure will avail to convince him that 
these individual rights are to be surrendered for the clear 
benefit of the whole. It is easy enough to convince a man 
that he ought not to harbor the thief who steals people's 
pi-operty ; but to make him see that he has no right to 
slowly kill his neighbors, or his tenants, by making a 
death-ti'ap of his house, seems to be the hardest of all 
tasks. It is apparently the slowness of the process that 
obscnrea his mental sight. The man who will fight an 
order to repair the plumbing in his house through every 
coiii't he can reach, would suffer tortures rather than shed 
the blood of a fellow-man by actual violence. Clearly, it 
is a matter of education on the part of the landlord no 
less than the tenant. 

In spite of this, the landlord has done his share ; chief- 
ly perhaps by yielding— not always gracefully — -when it 

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was no longer of any nee to fight. There have been ex- 
ceptions, however: men and women who have mended 
and built with an eje to the reai welfare of their tenants 
as well aa to their own pockets. Let it be well understood 
that the two are iuseparable, if any good is to come of it. 
The business of housing the poor, if it is to amount to 
anything, must be business, as it was business with our 
fathers to put them where they are. As charity, pastime, 
or fad, it will miserably fail, always and everywhere. 
This is an inexorable rule, now thoroughly well under- 
stood in England and continental Europe, and by all who 
have given the matter serious thought here. Call it po- 
etic justice, or divine justice, or anything else, it is a Iiard 
fact, not to be gotten over. Upon any other plan than 
the assumption that the workman has a just claim to a 
decent liome, and the right to demand it, any scheme for 
his relief fails. It must be a fair exchange of the man's 
money for what he can afford to buy at a reasonable 
price. Any charity scheme merely turns him into a pau- 
per, however it may be disguised, and drowns him hope- 
lessly in the mire out of which it proposed to pull him. 
And this principle must pervade the whole plan. Expert 
management of model tenements succeeds where ama- 
teur management, with the best intentions, gives up the 
task, discouraged, as a flat failure. Some of the best-con- 
ceived enterprises, backed by abundant capital and good- 
will, have been wrecked on this rock. Sentiment, having 
prompted the effort, forgot to stand aside and let business 
make it. 

Business, in a wider sense, lias done more than all other 
agencies together to wipe out the worst tenements. It has 
been New York's real Napoleon III., from whose decree 
there was no appeal. In ten years I have seen plague- 

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spots disappear before its onward inarch, with which 
health officers, police, and sanitary science had struggled 
vainly since such struggling began as a serious business. 
And the process goes on still. Unfortunately, tiie crowd- 
ing in some of the most densely packed quarters down 
town has made the propei'ty there so valuable, that relief 
from this source is less confidently to be expected, at all 
events in the near future. Still, their time may come 
also. It conies so quickly sometimes as to fairly take 
one's breath away. More than once I have returned, after 
a few brief weeks, to some specimen rookery in which I 
was interested, to find it gone and an army of workmen 
delving twenty feet underground to lay tlie foundation of 
a mighty warehouse. Tliat was the case with the "Big 
Fiat" in Mott Street. I had not had occasion to visit it 
for several months last winter, and when I went there, 
entirely unprepared for a change, I cx)uld not find it. It 
had always been coTispicuons enough in the landscape be- 
fore, and I marvelled miich at my own stupidity until, by 
examining the number of the house, I found out that I 
had gone right. It was the " fiat " that had disappeared. 
In its place towered a six-story carriage factoiy with busi- 
ness going on on every floor, as if it had been there for 
years and years. 

This same " Big Fiat " furnished a good illustration of 
why some well-meaut efforts in tenement building have 
failed. Like Gotham Court, it was originally built as a 
model tenement, but speedily came to rival the Court in 
foulness. It became a regular hot-bed of thieves and 
peace -breakers, and made no end of trouble for the police. 
The immediate reason, outside of the lack of proper su- 
pervision, was that it had open access to two streets in 
a neighborhood where thieves and "toughs" abounded. 

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These took advantage o£ an arrangement that had been 
supposed by the builders to be a I'eal advantage as a 
means of ventilation, and their occupancy drove honest 
folk away. Murderere' Alley, of which I have spoken 
elsewhere, a»d the sanitaiy inspector's experiment with 
building a brick wall athwart it to shut off travel through 
the block, is a parallel case. 

The causes that operate to obstruct efforts to better 
the lot of the tenement population are, in onr day, large- 
ly found among the tenants themselves. This is true 
particularly of the poorest, Tliey are shiftless, destruc- 
tive, and stupid ; in a word, they are what the tene- 
ments have made them. It is a dreary old truth that 
tliose wlio would fight for the poor must fight the poor to 
do it. It must be confessed that there is little enough in 
their past experience to inspire confidence in the sincerity 
of the effort to help them. I recall the discomfiture of a 
certain well-known philanthropist, since deceased, whose 
heart beat responsive to other suffering than that of Iiu- 
man kind. He was a large owner of tenement property, 
and once undertook to fit out his houses with stationary 
tubs, sanitary plumbing, wood-closete, and all the latest 
improvements. He introduced his rough tenants to all 
this magnificence without taking the precaution of pro- 
viding a competent housekeeper, to see that the new ac- 
quaintances got on together. He felt that his tenants 
ought to be grateful for the interest he took in them. 
They were. They found the boards in the wood-closets 
fine kindling wood, while the pipes and faucets were as 
good as cash at the junk shop. In three months tlte 
owner had to remove what was left of his improvements. 
The pipes were cut and tire houses running full of water, 
tlie stationary tubs were put to all sorts of uses except 

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274 HOW Tilt: OTiJiiK kalf lives. 

washing, aiiJ of tlie wood-closeta not a trace was left. 
The philaatliropist was ever after a firm believer in the 
total depravity of tenement-house people. Others have 
beea led to like reasoning by as plausible argainents, with- 
out discovering that the sliiftlessness and ignorance tliat 
offended them were the consistent crop of the tenement 
they were trying to refoi-m, and had to be included in the 
effort. The owners of a block of model tenements up- 
town had got their tenants comfortably settled, and were 
indulging in high hopes of their redemption under proper 
management, when a contractor ran np a row of " skin " 
tenements, shaky bnt fair to look at, witli brown-stone 
trimmings and gewgaws. The result was to tempt a lot 
of the well-housed tenants away. It was a very astonish- 
ing instance of perversity to the planners of the benevo- 
lent scheme ; but, after all, there was nothing strange in it. 
It is all a matter of education, as I said about the landlord. 
That the education comes slowly need excite no sur- 
prise. The forces on the other side are ever active. The 
faculty of the tenement for appropriating to itself eveiy 
foul thing that comes within its reach, and piling up and 
intensifying its corruption until out of al! proportion to 
tlie beginning, is something marvellous. Drop a case of 
scarlet fever, of measles, or of diphtheiua into one of these 
barracks, and, unless it is caught at the very start and 
stamped out, the contagion of the one case will sweep 
block after block, and liaif ] eople a graveyard. Let the 
police break np a vile dive, goaded by the angry protests 
of the neighborhood — forthwith the outcasts set in circu- 
lation by the raid betake themselves to the tenements, 
where in their hired rooms, safe from interference, they 
set up as many independent centres of contagion, infinite- 
ly more destrueti\'e, each and every one, than was the 

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known dive before. I am not willing to affirm that this 
is the police reason for letting so many of the dives alone ; 
but it might well be. They are perfectly familiar with 
the proeesB, and quite powerless to prevent it. 

This faculty, as inherent in the problem itself — the pro- 
digious increase of the tenement-house population that 
goes on without eeaeation, and its consequent greater 
crowding — is the chief obstacle to its solution. In 1869 
there were 14,872 tenements in New York, with a popu- 
lation of 468,492 persons. In 1879 the number of the 
tenements was estimated at 21,000, and their tenants had 
passed the half-million mark. At the end of the year 
1888, when a regular census was made for the first time 
since 1869, the showing was : 32,390 tenements, with a 
population of 1,093,701 souls. To-day we have 37,316 
tenements, including 2,630 rear houses, and their popula- 
tion is over 1,250,000. A large share of this added popu- 
lation, especially of that which came to us from abroad, 
crowds in below Fourteenth Street, where the population 
is already packed beyond reason, and confounds all at- 
tempts to make matters better there. At the same time 
new slums are constantly growing up uptown, and have to 
be kept down with a firm hand. This drift of the popu- 
lation to the great cities has to be taken into account as a 
steady factor. It will probably increase rather than de- 
crease for many years to come. At the beginning of the 
century the percentage of our population that lived in 
cities was as one in twenty-five. In 1880 it was one in 
four and one-half, and. in 1890 the census will in all prob- 
ability show it to be one in four. Against such tenden- 
cies, in the absence of suburban outlets for the crowding 
masses, all remedial measures must prove more or less 
ineffective. The "confident belief" expressed by the 

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Board of Health in 1874, that rapid transit would solve 
the problem, is now known to have been a vain hope, 

Workingmen, in New York at all events, wili live near 
theii' work, no matter at what sacrifice of co^nfort — one 
might almost say at whatever cost, and tlie city will never 
be less crowded than it is. To distribute the crowds as 
evenly as possible is the effort of the authorities, where 
nothing better can be done. In the first six months of 
the presentyear 1,068 persons were turned out of not quite 
two hundred tenejnents below Houston Street by the 
sanitary police on their midnight inspections, and this 
covered only a very small part of that field. The uptown 
tenements were practically left to take care of themselves 
in this respect. 

The quick change of economic conditions in the city that 
often out-paces all plans of i-elief, rendering useless to-day 
what met the demands of the situation well enough j'es- 
terday, is anotlier cause of pei'plexity. A common obstacle 
also — I am inclined to think quite as common as in Ire- 
land, though we hear less of it in the newspapers^is the 
absentee landlord. The home article, who fights for liis 
i-ights, as he chooses to consider them, is bad enough ; 
but the absentee landlord is responsible for no end of 
ti-ouble. He was one of the first obstructions the sanitary 
i-eformers stumbled over, wlien tlie Health Department 
took hold. It reported in 1809 that many of tiie tenants 
were entirely uncared for, and that the only answer to 
their requests to have the houses put in order was an in- 
vitation to pay their rent or get out. " Inquiry often dis- 
closed the fact that the owner of the property was a 
wealthy gentleman or lady, either living in an aristocratic 
part of the city, or in a neighboring city, or, as was ocea- found to be the case, in Europe, The property is 

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UEuallj managed entirely by an agent, whose instructions 
are simple but emphatic : Collect the rent in advance, 
or, failing, eject the oecupaiits." The Committee having 
the matter in charge proposed to compel owners of tene- 
ments witli ten families or more to put a housekeeper in 
the liouse, who should be held responsible to the Plealth 
Department. Unluckily the powersof the Board gave out 
!it that point, and the proposition was not acted upon then. 
Could it have been, much trouble would have been spared 
the Health Board, and untold suffering the tenants in 
many houses. The tribe of absentee landlords is by no 
means extinct in New York. Kot a few who fled from 
across the sea to avoid being crushed by his heel there 
have groaned under it here, scarcely profiting by tlie ex- 
change. Sometimes — it can hardly be said in extenua- 
tion — the heel that crunches is applied in saddening ig- 
norance. I recall tlie angry indignation of one of these 
absentee landlords, a worthy man who, living far away in 
the eounti'v, had inherited city property, when he saw the 
condition of his slum tenements. The man was shocked 
beyond expression, all the more because he did not know 
whom to blame except himself for the state of things that 
had aroused his wrath, and yet, conscious of the integrity 
of his intentions, felt that he should not justly be held 

The experience of this landlord points directly to the 
I'emedy which the law failed to supply to the early re- 
formers. It has since been fully denionstrated that a com- 
petent agent on the premises, a man of the best and the 
highest stamp, who knows how to instruct and guide with 
a firm hand, ie a prerequisite to the success of any reform 
tenement scheme. This is a plain business proposition, 
that has been proved entirely sound in some notable in- 


278 now THE other half lives. 

stances of tenement building, of which more hereafter. 
Even among the poorer tenements, those are always the 
best in which the owner himseJf lives. It is a hopeful 
sign in any case. The difficulty of procuring such assist- 
ance without having to pay a ruinous price, ia one of the 
obstructions that have vexed in this city efforts to solve the 
problem of housing the poor properly, because it presup- 
poses that the effort must be made on a larger scale than 
has often been attempted. 

The readiness witii which the tenants respond to intelli- 
gent efforts in their behalf, when made under fair condi- 
tions, is as surprising as it is gratifying, and fully proves 
the claim that tenants are only satisfied in filthy and un- 
wliolesome suri'onndings because nothing better is offered, 
Tlie moral effect is as great as the improvement of their 
physical healtli. It is clearly discernible in the better 
class of tenement dwellers to-day. The change in the 
character of the colored population in the few years since 
it began to move out of tlie wicked rookeries of the old 
"Africa" to the decent tenements in Yorkville, furnishes 
a notable illustration, and a still better one is found in the 
contrast between the model tenement in the Mulberry 
Street Bend and the barracks across the way, of which I 
spoke in the chapter devoted to the Italian. The Italian 
himself is the strongest argument of all. With his fatal con- 
tentment in the filthiest surroundings, he gives undonbted 
evidence of having in him the instinct of cleanliness that, 
properly cultivated, would work liis rescue in a very little 
while. It is a queer contradiction, but the fact is patent 
to anyone who has observed the man in his home-life. 
And he is not alone in this. I came across an instance, 
this past summer, of how a refined, benevolent personal- 
ity works like a leaven in even the roughest tenement- 

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house crowd. This was no model tenement ; far from it. 
It was a towering barrack in the Tenth Ward, sheltering 
more than twenty families. All the light and air that en- 
tered its interior came through an air-shaft two feet square, 
upon which two bedrooms and the Iiall gave in every story. 
In three years I had known of two domestic tragedies, 
prompted by poverty and justifiable disgust with life, oc- 
curring in the house, and liad come to look upon it as a 
typically bad tenement, quite beyond the pale of possible 
improvement. What was my surprise, when chance led 
me to it once more after a while, to find the character of 
the occupants entirely changed. Some of the old ones 
were there Btill, but they did not seem to be the same 
people. X discovered the secret to be the new house- 
keeper, a tidy, miid-maniiered, but exceedingly strict little 
body, who had a natural faculty of drawing her depraved 
surroundings within the beneficent sphere of her strong 
sympathy, and withal of exacting respect for her orders. 
The worst elements had been banished from the house in 
short order under her management, and for the rest a new 
era of self-respect had dawned. They were, as a body, as 
vastly superior to the general run of tlieir class as they 
had before seemed below it. And this had been efEected 
in the short space of a single year. 

My observations on this point are more than confirmed 
by those of nearly all the practical tenement reformers I 
have known, who have patiently held to the course they 
had laid down. One of these, whose experience exceeds 
that of all of the rest together, and whose influence for 
good has been very great, said to me recently : " I hold 
that not ten per cent, of the people now living in tenements 
would refuse to avail themselves of the best improved con- 
ditions offered, and come fully up to the use of them, prop- 



erly iustrueted ; fjut they cannot get them. Tliey are up 
to tliem now, fully, if tlie chances were only offered. They 
don't have to come up. It is all a gigantic mistake on the 
part of the public, of which these poor people are the vic- 
tims. I have built homes for more than five hundred fam- 
ilies in fourteen years, and I have been getting daily more 
faith in luiman nature from my work among the poor ten- 
ants, thongli approaching that nature on a plane and under 
conditions that could scarcely promise better for disap- 
pointment." It is true that my friend has built his houses 
in Brooklyn ; hut human nature does not differ. gi-eatly on 
tlie two shores of the East liiver. For those who think it 
does, it may be well to remember that only five years ago 
the Tenement House Commission summed np the situa- 
tion in this city in the declaration that, "the condition of 
the tenants is in advance of the houses which they oc- 
cupy," quite the severest aiTaignment of the tenement 
that liad yet been uttered. 

The many philantliropic efforts that have been made in 
the last few years to render less intolerable the lot of the 
tenants in the homes where many of them must continue 
to live, have undoubtedly had tiieir effect in creating a dis- 
position to accept better things, that will make plainer 
sailing for future builders of model tenements. In many 
ways, as in the " College Settlement " of courageous girls, 
the N'eighborhood Guilds, through the efforts of The King's 
Daughters, and numerous other schemes of practical mis- 
sion work, the poor and the well-to-do have been brought 
closer togethei', in an every-day companionship that cannot 
but he productive of the best results, to the one who gives 
no less than to the one who receives. And thus, as a good 
lady wrote to me once, though the problem stands yet 
unsolved, more pei-plexing than ever; though the bright 

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spots in the drearj' pictiii'e be too often briglit only bj 
eompai-ison, and many of tlie expedients hit upon for re- 
lief sad makeshifts, we can dimly discern behind it all 
that good is somehow working out of even this sJough of 
despond the while it is deepening and widening in onr 
siglit, and in His own good season, if we labor on witli 
conrage and patience, will bear fruit sixty and a hundred 




WHAT, then, are the baid facts with which we have 
to deal in New York ? 

I. That we have a tt'eiuendcms, ever swelling crowd of 
wage- earners which it is our business to house decently. 

II. That it is not housed decently. 

III. That it must be so housed here for the present, and 
for a long time to come, alt schemes of suburban relief 
being as yet Utopian, impracticable. 

IV. That it pays high enough rents to entitle it to be 
so housed, as a right. 

V. That nothing but our own slothfulness is in the way 
of so housing it, since " the condition of the tenants is in 
advance of the condition of the houses which they occupy " 
(lieport of Tenement-house Commission). 

VI. Tliat the security of the one no less than of the 
other half demands, on sanitary, moral, and economic 
grounds, that it be decently housed. 

VII. That it will pay to do it. As an investment, I 
mean, and in hard cash. This I shall immediately pro- 
ceed to prove. 

VIII. TJiat the tenement has come to stay, and must it- 
self be the solution of the problem with which it coofronts 

This is the fact from which we cannot get away, how- 
ever we may deplore it. Doubtless the best would be to 

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get rid of it altogetlier ; but as we cannot, all argnment 
on tliat score may at tliis time be dismissed as idle. The 
practical question is what to do with the tenement. I 
watched a Mott Street landloi'd,.the owner of a row of 
barracks that have made no end of tronbJe for the health 
authorities for twenty years, solve that qnestion for him- 
self the other day. His way was to give the wretched 
pile a coat of paint, and put a gorgeous tin cornice on with 
the year 1890 in letters a yard long. From where I stood 
watching the operation, I looked down upon the same 
dirty crowds eamping on the roof, foremost among them 
an Italian mother with two stark-naked children who had 
apparently never made the acquaintance of a wash-tub. 
That was a landlord's way, and will not get ns out of the 

The " flat " is another way that does not solve tlie prob- 
lem, Eather, it extends it. The flat is not a model, 
though it ia a modern, tenement. It gets rid of some of 
the nuisances of the low tenement, and of the worst of 
them, the overcrowding — if it gets rid of them at all — at 
a cost that takes it at once out of the catalogue of " homes 
for the poor," while imposing some Of the evils from 
which they suffer upon those who ought to escape from 

There are three effective ways of dealing with the tene- 
ments in New York : 

I. By law, 

II. By remodelling and making the most out of the old 

III. By building new, model tenements. 

Private en tei'prise— conscience, to put it in thecategory 
of duties, where it belongs — must do the lion's share un- 
der these last two heads. Of what the law has effected I 

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have spoken already. The drastic measures adopted in 
Paris, in Glasgow, and in London artj not practicable here 
on anything like as large a scale. Still it can, under 
stioTig pressure of public opinion, rid us of the worst 
plagne-spots. The Mulberry Street Bend will go the way 
of the Five Points when all the red tape that binds the 
hands of municipal effort has been unwound. Pnzes were 
offered in public competition, some years ago, for the best 
plans of modern tenement-houses. It may be that we 
shall see the day when the building of model tenements 
will be encouraged by subsidies in the way of a rebate of 
taxes. Meanwhile the arrest and summary punishment 
of landlords, or their agents, who persistently violate law 
and decency, will have a salutary effect. If a few of the 
wealthy absentee landlords, who are the woi'st offenders, 
could be got within the jurisdiction of the city, and by ar- 
rest be compelled to employ proper overseers, it would be 
a proud day for New York. To remedy the overcrowd- 
ing, with which the night inspections of tlie sanitary 
police cannot keep step, tenements may eventually have to 
be licensed, as now the lodging-houses, to liold so many 
tenants, and no more; or the State may have to bring down 
the rents that cause the crowding, by assuming the right 
to regulate them as it regulates the fares on the elevated 
roads, I throw out the suggestion, knowing quite well 
that it is open to attack. It emanated originally from one 
of the brightest minds that have had to struggle officially 
witli this tenement-house question in the last ten years. 
In any event, to succeed, reform by law must aim at mak- 
ing it unprofitable to own a bad tenement. At best, it is 
apt to travel at a snail's pace, while the enemy it pursues 
is putting the best foot foremost. 

In this matter of profit the law ought to have its atrong- 

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est ally in the landlord himself, tliougli the reverse is the 
case. This condition of things I believe to rest oc a mon- 
strous error. It cannot be that tenement property that is 
worth preserving at all can continue to yield larger returns, 
if allowed to run down, than if properly cared for and kept 
in good i-epair. The point mnst be reached, and soon, where 
the cost of repairs, necessary with a house full of the lowest, 
most ignorant tenants, must overbalance the saving of the 
first few yeai-s of neglect ; for this class is everywhere the 
most destructive, aa well as the poorest paying. I have the 
experience of owners, who have found this out to their 
cost, to back me up in the assertion, even if it were not 
tlie statement of a plain business fact that proves itself. 
I do not include tenement property tliat is deliberately 
allowed to fall into decay because at some future time tlie 
ground will be valuable for business or other purposes. 
There is unfortunately enough of that kind in "New York, 
often leasehold property owned by wealthy estates or soul- 
less corporations that oppose all their great influence to 
the efforts of the law in behalf of their tenants. 

There is abundant evidence, on the other hand, that it 
can be made to pay to improve and make the most of the 
worst tenement property, even in the most wretched lo- 
cality. The example set by Miss Ellen Collins in her 
Water Street houses will always stand as a decisive answer 
to all doubts on this point. It is quite ten years since she 
bought three old tenements at the corner o£ "Water and 
Roosevelt Streets, then as now one of the lowest localities 
in the city. Since then she has leased three more adjoin- 
ing her purchase, and so much of Water Street has at all 
events been purified. Her first effort was to let in the 
light in the hallways, and with the darkness disappeared, 
as if by magic, the heaps of refuse that used to be piled 

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up beside the sinks. A few of the moat refractory ten- 
ants disappeared with them, but a very considerable pro- 
portion stayed, conforming readily to the new rules, and 
are there yet. It should here he stated that Miss Collins's 
tenants are distinctly of the poorest. Her purpose was to 
experiment with this class, and her experiment has been 
more than satisfactory. Her plan was, as she puts it her- 
self, fair play between tenant and landlord. To this end 
the rents were put as low as consistent with the idea of a 
business investment that must return a reasonable interest 
to be successful. The houses were thoroughly refitted 
with proper plumbing. A competent janitor was put in 
charge to see that the rules were observed by the tenants, 
when Miss Collins herself was not there. Of late years 
she has had to give very little time to personal superintend- 
ence, and the care-taker told me only the other day that 
very little was needed. The houses seemed to run tliem- 
selvea in the groove once laid down. Once the reputed 
haunt of thieves, they have become the most orderly 
in the neighborhood. Clothes ai-e left hanging on the 
lines all night witli impunity, and tlie pretty flower-beds 
in the yard wliere the children not only from the six houses, 
hut of the whole block, play, skip, and swing, are undis- 
turbed. The tenants, by the way, provide the flowers 
themselves in the spring, and take all the more pride in 
them because they are their own. The six houses contain 
foi'ty-five families, and there " has never been any need of 
putting up a bill." As to the income from tlie praperty, 
Miss Collins said to me last August : " I have had six and 
even six and three-quarters per cent, on the capital in- 
vested ; on the whole, you may safely say five and a half 
per cent. This I regard as entirely satisfactory." It 
should be added that she has persistently refused to let the 

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comer-store, now occupied by a butclier, as a saloon; or 
her income from it might liave been considerably in- 

Miss Ooliins's experience is o£ value chiefly as showing 
what can be accomplished with the worst possible mate- 
rial, by the sort of personal interest in the poor that alone 
will meet their real needs. All the charity in the world, 
scattered with the most lavish hand, will not take its 
place, "Fair play" between landlord and tenant is the 
key, too long mislaid, that nnlocks the door to success 
everywhere as it did for Miss Collins. She has not lacked 
imitators whose experience has been akin to her own. 
The case of Gotham Court has been already cited. On 
the other hand, instances are not wanting of landlords 
who have undertaken the task, but have tired of it or 
sold their property before it had been fully redeemed, 
with the result that it relapsed into its former bad condi- 
tion faster than it had improved, and the tenants with it. 
I am inclined to think that such houses are liable to fall 
even below the average level. Backsliding in brick and 
mortar docs not greatly differ from similar performances 
in flesh and blood. 

Backed by a strong and steady sentiment, such as these 
pioneers have evinced, that would make it the personal 
business of wealthy owners with time to spare to look 
after their tenants, the law would be able in a very short 
time to work a salutary transformation in the worst quar- 
ters, to the lasting advantage, I am well persuaded, of tlie 
landlord no less than the tenant. Unfortunately, it is in 
this qoaiity of personal effoit that the sentiment of inter- 
est in the poor, upon which we have to depend, is too 
often lacking. People who are willing to give money feel 
that that ought to be enough. It is not. The money 

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tlms given is too apt to be wasted along with the senti- 
ment that prompted the gift. 

Even when it comes to tlie tliird of the ways I spoke of 
as effective in dealing with the tenement-house problem, 
the building of model structures, the personal interest in 
the matter must form a large sliare of tlie capital in- 
vested, if it is to yield full retui'ns. Where that is the 
case, there is even less doubt about its paying, with ordi- 
nary business management, than in the case of reclaiming 
an old building, which is, like putting life into a defunct 
newspaper, pretty apt to he up-hill work. Model tene- 
ment building has not been attempted in New York on 
anything like as large a scale as in many other great cities, 
and it is perhaps owing to this, in a measure, that a belief 
prevails that it cannot succeed here. This is a wrong no- 
tion entirely. The various undertakings of that sort that 
have been made here under intelligent management have, 
as far as I know, all been successful. 

From the managers of the two best-known experiments 
in model tenement building in the city, the Improved 
Dwellings Association and tlie Tenement-house Bnild- 
ing Company, I have letters dated last August, declaring 
their entei-prises eminently successful. There is no reason 
why their experience should not be conclusive. That the 
Philadelphia plan is not practicable in New York is not 
a good reason why onr own plan, which is precisely the 
reverse of our neighbor's, should not be. In fact it is an 
argument for its success. The very reason why we cannot 
house our working masses in cottages, as has been done in 
Philadelphia — viz., that they iimst live on Manhattan 
Island, where the land is too costly for small houses — is 
the best guarantee of the success of the model tenement 
house, properly located and managed. The drift in tene- 

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ment building, aa in everything else, is toward concen- 
tration, and helps smooth the way. Pour families on 
the floor, twenty in the house, is the rule of to-day. 
As the crowds increase, the need of guiding this drift 
into safe channels becomes more urgent. The larger the 
scale upon which the model tenement is planned, the 
more certain the promise of success. The utmost ingenu- 
ity cannot build a house for sixteen or twenty families on a 
lot 25 X 100 feet in tlie middle of a block like it, that shall 
give them the amount of air and sunlight to be had by the 
erection of a dozen or twenty houses on a common plan 
around a central yard. This was the view of the commit- 
tee that awarded the prizes for the best plan for the con- 
ventional tenement, ten years ago. It coupled its verdict 
with the emphatic declaration that, in its view, it was "im- 
possible to secure the requirements of physical and moral 
liealth within tiiese narrow and arbitrary limits." Houses 
have been built since on better plans than any the com- 
mittee saw, but its judgment stands iinimpaired. A point, 
too, that is not to be overlooked, is the reduced cost of 
expert superintendence— the first condition of successful 
management — in the larger buildings. 

The Improved Dwellings Association put up its block 
of thirteen houses in East Seventy^econd Street nine years 
ago. Their cost, estimated at about $240,000 with the 
land, was increased to $285,000 by troubles with the con- 
tractor engaged to build them. Thus the Association's 
task did not begin under the happiest auspices. Unex- 
pected expenses came to deplete its treasury. The neigh- 
borhood was new and not crowded at the start. No ex- 
pense was spared, and the benefit of all the best and most 
recent experience in tenement building was given to the 
tenants. The families were provided with from two to 

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four rooms, all " outgr " rooms, of course, at rents ranging 
from $14 per month for the four on the ground floor, to 
$6.25 for two I'ooms on the top floor. Coal hfts, ash- 
chutes, common laundries in the basement, and free baths, 
are features of these buildings that were then new enough 
to be looked upon witli suspicion by the doubting Thom- 
ases who predicted disaster. There are rooms in the block 
for 218 families, and when I looked in i-ecently ail but nine 
of the apartments were let. One of the nine was rented 
while I was in the building. The superintendent told me 
that he had little trouble with disoi-derly tenants, though 
the buildings shelter all sorts of people. Mr. W. Bayard 
Cutting, the President of the Association, writes to nie : 

" By the terms of subscription to the stock before incor- 
poration, dividends were limited to five per cent, on the 
stock of the Improved Dwellings Association. These div- 
idends have been paid {two per cent, each six montJis) ever 
since the expiration of the first six months of the buildings 
operation. All surplus has been expended upon the build- 
ings. New and expensive roofs have been put on for the 
comfort of such tenants as might choose to use them. The 
buildings have been completely painted inside and out in 
a manner not contemplated at the ontset. An expensive 
set of fii-e-escapes has been put on at the, command of the 
Fire Department, and a considerable number of other im- 
provements made. I regard the ea^erime7it as eminently 
successful and satisfactory, particularly when it is consid- 
ered that the buildings were the first erected in this city 
upon anything like a largo scale, where it was proposed to 
meet the architectural diificulties tiiat present themselves 
in the tenement-house problem. I have no doubt that 
the experiment could bo tried to-day with the improved 
knowledge which has come with time, and a much Jai'ger 

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retnm be shown upon tlie investment. The resnlts re- 
ferred to have been attained in spite of the provision 
which prevents the sehing of liquor upon tlie Association's 
premises. You are aware, of course, how ranch larger 
rent can be obtained for a liquor saloon than for an ordi- 
nary store. An investment at five per cent, net upon real 
estate security worth more than the principal sum, ought 
to be considered desirable." 

The Tenement Honse Building Company made its " ex- 
periment " in a much more difficult neighborhood, Cher- 
ry Street, some six years later. Its houses shelter many 
Bussian Jews, and the difficulty of keeping tliem in order 
is correspondingly increased, particularly as there are no 
ash-chutes in the houses. It has been necessary even to 
shut the children out of the yards upon which the kitchen 
windows give, lest they be struck by something thrown 
out by the tenants, and killed. It is the Cherry Street 
style, not easily got rid of. Nevertheless, the houses are 
well kept. Of the one hundred and six " apartments," 
only four were vacant in August. Professor Edwin V,.. 
A. Seligman, the secretary of the company, writes to me : 
"The tenements ai-e now a decided success." In the 
three years since they were built, they have returned an 
interest of from five to five and a half per cent, on the 
capital invested. The original intention of making the 
tenants profit-sharers on a plan of rent insurance, under 
which all earnings above four per cent, would be put to 
the credit of the tenants, has not j'et been carried out. 

A scheme of dividends to tenants on a somewhat simi- 
lar plan has been carried out by a Brooklyn builder, Mr, 
A. T. White, who has devoted a life of beneficent activity 
to tenement building, and whose experience, though it 
■ across the East Eiver, I regard as 

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justly applying to New York as well. He so regards it 
himself. Discussing the cost of bnilding, he says : 
" There is not the slightest reason to doubt that the finan- 
cial result of a similar undertaking in any tenement- 
house district of New Tork City would be equally good. 
. . . High cost of land is no detriment, provided the 
value is made by the pressure of people seeking residence 
there. Kents in New York City bear a higher ratio to 
JBrooklyn rents than would the cost of land and building 
in the one city to that in the other." The assertion that 
Erooklyu furnishes a better class of tenants than the ten- 
ement districts in New York would not be worth discuss- 
ing seriously, even if Mr, White did not meet it himself 
with the statement that the proportion of day-laborers 
and sewing-women in his Iiouses is greater than in any of 
the London model tenements, showing tliat tliey reach 
the humblest classes. 

Mr. White lias built homes for five hundred poor fami- 
lies since he began his work, and lias made it pay well 
enough to allow good tenants a share in the profits, aver- 
aging nearly one month's rent out of tlie twelve, as a pre- 
mium upon promptness and order. The plan of bis last 
tenements, reproduced on p. 292, may be justly regarded 
as the beau ideal of the model tenement for a great city 
like New York. It embodies all the good features of Sir 
Sydney Waterlow's London plan, with improvements sug- 
gested by the builder's own experience. Its chief merit 
is that it gathers three hundred real homes, not simply 
three hundred families, under one roof. Three tenants, it 
will be seen, everywhere live together. Of the rest of 
the three hundred they may never know, rarely see, one. 
Each has his private front-door. The common hall, with 
ail that it stands for, has disappeared. The fire-proof 

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stairs are outside the house, a perfect flre-eecape. Each 
tenant has his own aeuilery and ash-flue. There are no 
air-shafts, for they are not needed. Every room, under 
the admirable arrangement of tlie plan, looks out either 
upon the street or the yard, that is nothing less than a 
great park with a play-ground set apart for the children, 
where they may dig in the sand to their heart's content. 
Weekly concerts are given in the park by a brass band. 
The drying of clothes is done on the roof, where racks 
are fitted up for the purpose. The outside stairways end 
ia tnrrets that give the buildings a very smart appearance. 
Mr. White never has any trouble with his tenants, though 
he gathers in the poorest ; nor do his tenements have any- 
thing of the "institution character" that occasionally, at- 
taches to ventures of this sort, to their damage. They are 
like a big village of contented people, wlio live in peace 
with one another because they have elbow-room even un- 
der one big roof. 

Enough has been said to show that model tenements 
can be built Buccessfully and made to pay in New York, 
if the owner will be content with the five or six per cent. 
he does not even dream of when investing his funds in 
" governments " at three or four. It is true that in the 
latter case he has only to cut off his coupons and cash 
them. But the extra trouble of looking after his tene- 
ment property, that is the condition of his highest and 
lasting success, is the penalty exacted for the sins of our 
fathers that " shall be visited upon the children, unto the 
third and fourth generation." We shall indeed be well 
off, if it stop there. I fear there is too much reason to 
believe that our own iniquities must be added to transmit 
the curse still further. And yet, such ia the leavening in- 
fluence of a good deed in that dreary desert of sin and 



suffering, that the erection of a single good tenement has 
the power to change, gradually but surely, the character 
of a whole bad block. It sets up a standard to which the 
neighborhood must rise, if it cannot succeed in dragging 
it down to its own low level. 

And so this task, too, has come to an end. Whatsoever 
a man soweth, that shall he also reap. I have aimed to 
tell the truth as I saw it. If this book shall have borne 
ever so feeble a hand in garnering a harvest of justice, it 
has served its purpose. "While I was writing these lines I 
went down to the sea, where thousands from the city 
were enjoying their summer i-est. The ocean slumbered 
under a cloudless sky. Gentle waves washed lazily over 
the white sand, where children fled before them with 
screams of laughter. Standing there and watching their 
play, I was told that during the fierce storms of winter it 
happened that this sea, now so calm, rose in rage and 
beat down, brake over the bluff, sweeping all before it. 
No barrier built by human hands had power to stay it 
then. The sea of a mighty population, held in galling 
fetters, heaves mi easiSy in the tenements. Once already 
our city, to which have come the duties and responsibili- 
ties of metropolitan greatness before it was able to fairly 
measure its task, has felt the swell of its resistless flood. 
If it rise once more, no human power may avail to check 
it. The gap between the classes in which it surges, un- 
seen, unsuspected by the thonghtless, is widening day by 
day. No tardy enactment of law, no political expedient, 
can close it. Against all other dangei's our system of gov- 
ernment may offer defence and shelter; against this not. 
I know of but one bridge that will carry us over safe, a 
bridge founded upon justice and built of human hearts. 

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I believe that the danger of sncli conditions as are fast 
growing up around us is greater for tlie very freedom 
which they mock. The words of the poet, with whose 
lines I prefaced this book, are truer to-day, have far 
deeper meaning to us, than when they were penned forty 
years ago : 

" — Think je that bnildiog shall endure 
'Which shelters the noble and crushes the poor ? '' 

.,C<. . .n\r 




SiATisnos of popnlfttion were left out of the test in the hope 
thflt the results of this jear's census would be available aa a basis 
for calculation before the book went to press. They are now at 
hand, but their correctness is disputed. The statisticians of the 
Health Department cjaim that New York's population has been 
underestimated a hundred thousand at least, and thej appear to 
have the bast of the argument. A re-count is called for, and the 
printer will not wait. Such statistics as follow have been based on 
the Health Department estimates, escept where the census source 
is given. The extent of the quarrel of official figures may be judged 
from this one fact, that the ordinarily oonservatiye and careful cal- 
culations of the Sanitary Bureau make the death-rate of New 
York, in 1889, 25,19 for the thousand of a population of 1,575,073, 
while the census would make it 26.76 in a population of 1,482,273. 


3 816,483 

' Philadelphia, 1880 "... 

846 980 

" New York, 1889 (estimated) 


" Philadelphia, 1889 " . . 



' New York under five years of age, 





Population of tenemenia in New York in 1869* (census). 468,492 

" " " " 1888t " 1,093,701 
" " " " " under five 

jears of age 143,243 

Popiilation ol New York in 1880 (census) 1,206,299 

Manliattaa Island in 1880 (census) , . 1,164,673 

Tenth Ward in 1880 (census) 47,554 

Eleventh Ward " " 68,778 

Thirteenth Ward in 1880 (census) 37, 797 

" New York ia 1890 (cenana) 1,513,601 

" Manhattan Island in 1890 (census) 1,440,101 

" Tenth Ward in 1890 [census) 57,5U 

" Eleventh Ward " " 75,708 

Thirteenth Ward in 1890 (census) 45,882 

Number of acres in New York City 24,890 

" " Manhattan Island 12,673 

" " Tenth Ward 110 

" Eleventh Ward 196 

" " Thirteenth Ward 107 

Density of population per acre in 1880, New York City. 48.1 
Density of population per acre in 1880, Manhattan 

Island 92.6 

Density of population per acre in 1880, Tenth Ward. . . 432.3 

Density of population i>er acre in 1880, Eleventh Ward 350.9 

Density of population per acre in 1880, Thirteenth Ward 353. 2 
Density of population per acre in 1890, New York City 

(census) 60.08 

Density of population per acre in 1890, Manhattan 

Island (census) 114.53 

Density of population per acre in 1890, Tenth Ward 

(cenana) 522.00 

Density of population per acre in 1890, Eleventh Ward 

(census) 386.00 

Density of population per acre in 1890, Thirteenth Ward 

(census) 428.8 

Density of population to the square mile in 1880, New 

York City (census) 30,976 

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Density of population to the sqoare mile in 1880, Man- 
hattan Island (census) 41,264 

Density of population to the square mile in 1880, Tenth 

Ward (census) 276,672 

Density of population to the square mile in 1880, Elev- 
enth Wai-d (census) 224,576 

Density of population to the square mile in 1880, Thir- 
teenth Ward (census) 226,048 

Density of population to the square mile in 1890, New 

YorkCt ( nu) 38,451 

Density of pop lat n t the square mile in 1890, Man- 
hattan 1 land ( n us) 73,299 

Density of p p lat n t the square mile in 1890, Tenth 

Ward { en u ) 334,080 

Density of p i ulat n t the square mile in 1890, Elev- 
enth Wa d ( n u ) 246,040 

Density of poj lat n to the sqnare mile in 1890, Thir- 
teenth Wird ( nu) 274,482 

Number of persons to a dwelling in New York, 1880 

(census) 16.37 

Number of persons to a dwelling in Iiondon, 1881 (cen- 
sus) 7.9 

Number of persons to a dwelling in Philadelphia, 1880 

(™.«.) 6.™ 

Number of persons to a dwelling in Brooklyn, 1880 

(census) 9.11 

Number of persona to a dwelling in Boston, 1880 (cen- 
sus) 8.26 

Number of deaths in New York, 1880 31,937 

" " London, 1881 81,431 

Philadelphia, 1880 17,711 

" " Brooklyn, 1880 13,222 

" Boston, 1880 8,612 

Death-rate of New York. 1880 26.47 

London, 1881 21.3 

Philadelphia, 1880 20.91 

" Brooklyn, 1880 23.33 

" Boston, 1880 23.75 

Number of deaths in New York, 1889 39,679 

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Number of deaths in London, 1889 75,683 

Philadelphia, 1889 20,536 

■' " Brooklyn, 1889 18,288 

Boatou,1889 10,259 

Death-rate of New York, 1889 25. 19 

London, 1889 17.i 

Philadelphia, 1889 19.7 

Brooklyn. 1889 22.5 

" Boston, 1889 2i.i2 

For every person who diea there are always two disabled by ill- 
ness, 80 that there was a regular average of 79,358 New Yorkers 
on the sick-list at any moment last year. It is usual to count 28 
cases of sickness the year ronnd for every death, and this would 
give a total for the year 1889 of 1,111,082 of illness of all sorts. 

Number of deaths in tenements in New York, 1869 13,285 

" " " " " " 1888 2i,8i2 

Death-rate in tenements in New York, 1869 28.35 

This is exclusive of deaths in institutions, properly referable to 
the tenements in most cases. The adult death-rate is found to 
decrease in the larger tenements of newer construction. The 
child mortality increases, reaching 114.0i per cent, of 1,000 living 
in honses containing between 60 and 80 tenants. From this point 
it decreases with the adult death-rate. 

Number of deaths in prisons. New York, 1889 85 

" hospitals. New York, 1889 6,102 

lunaticasylums, New York, 1889,... 448 
" " institutions for children. New York, 

1889 522 

homes for aged. New York, 1889 ... . 238 

almshouse. New York, 1889 424 

other institutions, New York, 1889.. 162 
Number of barials in city cemetery (paupers). New York, 

1889 3,815 

Percentage of snch burials on total 9.64 



Number of tenants weeded out of overcrowded tenemente, 

New York, 1889 I,2i6 

Number of tenants weeded out of overcrowded tenemente, 

in first half of 1890* ■. 1,068 

Number of sick poor yiaited by summer corps of doctors. 

New York, 1890 16,501 

PoLiCB SrATisnca. 

Ualee. remilee. 

Arrests made by the police in 1889 62,274 19,926 

Nnmb^r of arrests for drunkenness and disor- 
derly conduct 20,253 8,981 

Number of arrests for disorderly conduct 10,953 7,477 

" " assault and battery 4,534 497 

" " theft 4,399 721 

" robbery 247 10 

" vagrancy 1,686 947 

Prisoners unable to read or write 2,399 1,281 

- Number of lost children found in the streets, 1889 2,968 

sick and destitute cared for, 1889 2,753 

Found sick in the streets 1,211 

Number of pawnshops in city, 1889 110 

" cheap lodging-houses, 1889 270 

" ealoona, 1889 7,884 

Immigrants landed at Castle Garden in 20 years, ending 

with 1889 5,335,396 

Immigrants landed at Castle Garden in 1889 349,233 

Immigrants from England landed at Castle Garden in 

1889 46,214 

Immigrants from Scotland landed at Castle Garden in 

1889 11,415 

Immigrants from Ireland lauded at Castle Garden in 

1889 -. 43,090 

Immigrants from Germany landed at Castle Garden in